Andrew is an Accountant & Whisky Connoisseur
Andrew Ven De Beek, returns to the podcast from episode 173 to talk about how his business is shifting towards the alcohol distribution industry, making his own whisky, the culture he tries to create at Illumin8, and more!
• Specializing towards alcohol distribution industry
• Creating his own whisky
• Building the culture at Illumin8
• Balancing performance and authenticity
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Photos of Andrew
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Welcome to Episode 354 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I’m following up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited, my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. If you’re interested in getting the book for 25 or more people, maybe clients or your team, there’s a form at whatsyourand.com. You can get a discounted pricing from my publisher. The least I can do is hook you up with that. Thanks so much for everybody who’s reading it and and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you so, so much for those.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe on the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Andrew Van De Beek. He’s the founder and Head of Purpose at Illumin8, outside of Melbourne, Australia, and now he’s with me here today. Andrew, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Andrew: John, it is an absolute pleasure, mate. Happy New Year to you, my friend.
John: Ditto, ditto. Yeah, it’s still New Year’s in Australia as well. I know the time change makes it a little weird, but —
Andrew: That’s called Happy New Year’s for the next, probably, three or four months because, bring it on with 2021. We got this.
John: I don’t even know what day it is. I don’t even know what’s going on.
Andrew: So they say between Christmas and like when you go back to work. In Australia, we normally take off about three to four weeks. It’s not even about what day it is. This is like, what am I supposed to be doing today? Am I going to a bar? Am I catching — do I have to get out of bed today? I don’t know what’s going on.
John: I feel like that’s been me for like 10 months.
Andrew: We’ve been well-trained.
John: Exactly. It’s always good catching up with you. I know this is going to be a blast. I have seven rapid-fire questions that I didn’t ask you the first time. Get to know Andrew here. Here we go. First one is, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Andrew: Game of Thrones. I did not read Harry Potter, and I very much enjoyed Game of Thrones.
John: Okay, well that makes it easy. Would you prefer to talk or text?
John: Talk. Yeah. Oh, this is a good one, favorite season, summer, winter, spring or fall.
Andrew: Oh, that’s real tough. That’s real tough. I was born in the spring, but Aussies, we love our summer because we can hit the beach. Even though I don’t really have a beach bar, but we can hit the beach. Yeah.
John: Yeah, yeah, summer. Okay. All right. When you’re traveling, planes, trains or automobiles.
Andrew: If someone else is making it move, definitely a plane. If I’m making it move, let’s go on automobile. If it can be automatic, make it a train.
John: Okay, so all three, a little bit of — yeah, that’s funny. Yeah. If someone else is driving it, not the plane. If it’s on me, you drive it, rather.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m not going to fly that plane, not just yet.
John: Right, right. That’s funny. How about this, three more, books, Kindle, real book or audio version?
Andrew: I would go audio version because I don’t really read all that much, but I like to listen.
John: Yeah, and you can do it on double speed. I do that a lot with videos as well. Your brain, it’s amazing how much your brain picks up at that rate. This one’s a tough one, rain or snow.
Andrew: Snow, easily. Magic, snow is magic. It’s just — I took my friend and six-year-old and my wife, we went to Europe. Actually, when we last spoke, we were going for this Europe trip. We finished in Scotland, driving through the mountains with — it was like you were in another world. It was amazing.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: As an Australian, where we don’t get that much snow in Australia, for me, that’s the deal.
John: No, no, I agree. Rain just — I think rain ruins everything. Rain at night when I’m not doing something. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Andrew: Over, always over. You want to be pulling that thing towards, you, not out from under the thing and scraping whatever is on the wall.
John: I didn’t even thought of that part of it. That’s an excellent point.
Andrew: Yeah. How often do you clean behind your toilet roll on the wall? What kind of germs are in there, mate? Jeepers.
John: Oh, man, I didn’t even think of that now. Now, it’s a slam dunk. I don’t even care. So, it’s been a slam dunk. Last time we talked, Utah Jazz, which was hilarious. You had pictures from being courtside at the games when you visited, and then also whiskey, which I feel like helps make it through a Utah Jazz season. I’m not sure, but it’s been rough a little bit.
Andrew: Look, following the NBA, last year obviously was quite interesting. Anyone who follows it quite closely will know really Rudy Gobert was kind of the reason that NBA was shut down because of COVID. We won’t need to go into detail about that. But we came back on the bubble, everything was looking really good, and then we collapsed in the first round of playoffs. Hey, we’ve signed a couple of — Mitchell and Gobert’s back in town, and Jordan Clarkson’s playing well, so the team’s looking okay.
Whiskey, though, oh, mate, I to tell you what, the last nine to 10 months of my life, I have purchased more whiskey than — because when you’re stuck at home — in Australia we were in a lockdown for a while — you’re stuck at home, you’ve got nothing to do, so you jump on your phone. You look. Oh, that one looks interesting. All of a sudden, you’re getting five to 10 bottles delivered to your door, every couple of days. You wife starts going, “What’s going on? Why is there so much whiskey around?”
John: I’m opening a bar, the Illumin8 bar.
Andrew: She knows that that is one of my ultimate goals in life is to open a whiskey bar, so how can I do that without having tested, tried, consumed and collected various amounts of whiskey to know what’s going to be behind said bar?
John: There you go. I love it. I feel like that’s almost tax-deductible as research. Not quite, but it’s close.
Andrew: I like your thinking. I really like it. Points for attempts there. That’s good. Very close.
John: Those points will also land you in jail, and that’s not good.
Andrew: Yeah, possibly.
John: Yeah, but that’s so cool to hear that you’re still same passions, the same things that still light you up before. The whiskey though, you’ve taken it to a new level with the DIY, if you will, make your own.
Andrew: I have.
Andrew: Yes. One of the fortunate things for me being a business advisor is that we specialize in a few different industries, and one of those that we’re getting to some deeper specializations in is the alcohol production industry, wine, beer, spirits. So, one of our clients manufactures gin and whiskey and a few other spirit-based things. I pulled them aside. It was probably about a year and a half ago. I said, “I want to make my own whiskey. What do you reckon?” We spent a bit of time, and I’m going over what’s going to go into it, where we’re going to source the grain from, what barrel and so on and so on.
Then in April, I took delivery of my little baby, a nice little five-liter ex-bourbon American oak barrel of whiskey which is affectionately known as Vande whiskey because of my last name being Van De Beek and whiskey. So, I’ve taken it to the next level. It is sitting here. I tasted it about a month and a half ago with a few mates, and it was like rocket fuel because it went in at 69%.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Andrew: Which, often, it does when you distill things. It comes quite high. We’ll let it sit there for a few years, and we’ll pull it out. Hopefully it’ll be a real delicious drop to share with mates.
John: Yeah, yeah, because that’s what I was wondering, is how long do you have to sit there and watch it?
Andrew: Well, I watch it. Instead of TV, I just put it on a shelf, and I stare at it. I’m like, come on, buddy, you can do this. Get there, you golden deliciousness. So, the time depends on how much of a stickler you are on the rules and what country you live in.
If I was in Scotland and this was going to be Scottish whiskey or — we wouldn’t call it Scot whiskey, they’d just call it whiskey because they’re in Scotland. Three years and one day, it must be aged for, and then it can be called whiskey. If it’s before that, if you bottled it before that, they’ll often call it a whiskey spirit or something like that.
In Australia, because of our temperatures and whatnot, so you can imagine, the hot and the cold inside the barrel, the liquid’s expanding, compressing and doing all kinds of stuff with the wood; it’s two years in Australia.
Andrew: When you have a tiny barrel, like I have a five-liter barrel, it could be three months before it tastes good. You don’t want to sit it in there for three to four years because it actually might get to a point where it doesn’t taste good. So, realistically, if you’re not commercially going to bottle something an, wanting to call it whiskey and trying to get some level of reputation, you just taste it every month or so and wait until you think it’s good. You go, bang, that’s great. Pull it out. You might cut it with a bit of water or something to reduce the alcohol volume because it’s quite strong. Then you drink it. Everybody says, “That was fantastic,” or that was terrible and everything in between, and away you go.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s so cool. Did you work with them on the flavors and what goes into it?
Andrew: I did, yes. What I effectively said to them is like, my favorite whiskey is Highland Park, which is the northernmost distillery in Scotland. I have a dog, and I named him Highland Bark, after the whiskey, so I’m big fan of that.
Andrew: I like a bit of peat, but not like a heavy bit of peat. I effectively said I want it to be slightly peated, which is the smokey flavor you get in whiskey. I wanted to have a bit of that salty, briny kind of texture about it, and a little bit of fruity, fudgy nuttiness in there. We said, all right, that’s what we’re looking for. Then we sorted out different grains. We actually made this a five-grain whiskey. Five different grains went into it to try and get those textures and flavors and whatnot. It’ll come out, and hopefully we’ll be super, super happy with it. I can tell you what grains it has in it, if you want.
John: Yeah, yeah, what grains, I was going to ask, because five, yeah, what did you put in there?
Andrew: All right, so we started with 45% of Maris Otter grain. This is brands and styles of grains. You’re not going to know any of them, neither will I. 17% of light Melanoidin. I can’t even pronounce that word.
John: You’re reading this off the card on the side of the barrel.
Andrew: I’m reading it off the card. Yeah, I’m not going to remember this stuff. There’s another 17% of Simpsons medium peat. I’m assuming Lisa and Bart got in on this, and Homer and Marge. There’s 17% of Best Vienna. Although I wonder what’s the Worst Vienna like. If I put that in, would it be any different?
John: If you’ve done average Vienna and saved a little bit.
Andrew: Yeah, just right in the middle. Then we finished with 4% of Bairds heavy peated and then away we go. There’s a bit of yeast, a couple of different yeasts in there. It is very interesting. It is very, right now, tasting, it is very strong. You definitely wouldn’t be drinking it properly. You just have a sip and see where it’s at. Yeah, it’s fun, mate.
John: That’s cool, man, I love it so much. I love it even more that it’s in the industries that you guys are helping and the businesses and clients that you worked with, to make this. It’s not something where you show up as uber-trusted advisor, accountant, business consultant person. You show up as, hey, I’m Andrew, and I also love whiskey, so what’s up, type of thing.
Andrew: It is a huge part of relationship-building and making, when you actually are interested, have some level — you don’t have to be an expert on what they do, but have an understanding and appreciation for that. Because you can come alongside them and show interest and learn and grow and hence, make some whiskey or do some cool stuff with them, if they’re in a different industry, and away you go.
John: Yeah, and I love it. You’ve been living and breathing this message since before we met even, which is cool. Just for people that are listening that are like, well, no one’s going to care, or it doesn’t have anything to do with the work, specifically, what do you tell people? How do you build that culture at your organization? How do you show people that it’s okay to have these outside-of-work things?
Andrew: It’s not hard to show them that it’s okay, but it’s sometimes hard to show them the appropriateness of how you manage that. Like saying, hey, it’s cool to be you. Everyone’s like, sweet, I’ll be me. Then they run around, and they’re a pack of idiots. How do we do that appropriately? Everybody wants a bit of recognition. They want to feel good about themselves. They want other people to be interested in because there’s a bit of that — that’s a healthy ego, I would say. Healthy ego is like, I want people to care about who I am and what I’m about, and I want to be able to share what I am and what I’m interested in or something that I might be passionate about that you don’t know.
Showing that in a way where we appreciate one another for that is fundamental. Provided that it doesn’t cross a line and become a controlling aspect of a relationship, it’s perfect. So, we’re just seeking courage by doing. Just be yourself. We’re a team of 16 now at Illumin8. I think when we spoke, we would have been a team of seven, maybe. That was about two and a half years ago. So, managing a larger team with that approach does become a little bit harder because there’s just more voices in a room. You have to make sure that everybody in that environment feels like they are comfortable, and they have that space to be themselves. They’re not being overpowered by some other people who’ve been there for longer or who have the louder voice.
I think part of that is personality profiling when you’re hiring people. It’s about, as a leader, giving them a platform to be themselves and allowing them to make mistakes, potentially, and allowing them to get their teeth sunk into things they ordinarily wouldn’t be able to. As a result of that, they take more responsibility and ownership on their role, the business and where they fit within that, authentically using their skill set as well.
John: That’s so true. You hire people that are adults, that are educated and good at what they do. Trust them to do it. So much in the professional world is very much looking over your shoulder and treating people like toddlers. It’s mind-numbing to me that people want to do that. It’s gotta be exhausting to manage.
Andrew: The challenge is every — not everybody. A challenge is, a lot of the time, you expect people to operate and think like you do. I’m a 35-year-old bloke who has a big beard and drinks whiskey and has a couple of kids and likes basketball. If you’re a 21-year-old female who doesn’t have a beard, doesn’t drink whiskey, doesn’t have kids, doesn’t like basketball, straightaway we’ve got a significant amount of difference between the two of us. That’s not to say that they’re not amazing at who they are and what they do. That’s just to say we’re different.
So, the older I get — I’m still pretty young in the world of what I do, but we just hired a 21-year-old the other day, and have been with us for a few weeks. We had our Christmas party at my house. We started playing beer pong, and she’s correcting us on how to play beer pong. You know what? We should probably listen to the 21-year-old because she probably plays beer pong a bit more than the 35, 40-year-olds that are hanging out here. So, we’ll let you decide that. It’s really going, at what point does this person have valid argument in a position where they can add value and do it appropriately, and go from there.
John: That’s exactly it. How much do you feel like the culture of the organization is impacted by those outside-of-work interests of people? Versus, I’ve heard some people talk about culture, and it’s all, well, how do we make the business run better? There’s always a meeting metrics. There’s always — I feel like it’s a self-serving kind of culture, as opposed to something that’s actually genuine and letting people bring in some of that outside stuff.
Andrew: Look, it’s really hard because, to be honest, at the end of the day, every decision you make is to ensure that you have better business.
Andrew: Me saying I actually give a hoot about my staff, about my team, who they are and what they do, is true, I do; but I also know that by doing that, that they will operate in a better manner within my business. There will always be a level of self-serving to the benefit that you’re getting back from that, but how you exhibit that and how you go about explaining that, I think is where it separates from, you’re just trying to make money? Or are you trying to help people and create an environment that allows you to then make money as a consequence of those actions? What’s first? Is the horse or the cart in front here? Where are we going as a result of that?
John: Yeah. No, that’s so true, how you said that. Because I just feel like the works going to happen. The work is going to get done. It’s not like you have to be as intentional with the work because it’s going to happen. That’s why we exist. It has to happen in order for us to exist because, otherwise, we’d all have hobbies that become everything we do because we don’t have a job anymore. On the flip side, that’s why it’s like, being intentional with making time for the sharing of those hobbies and passions or even doing them because I feel like people just put them on the back burner so quickly.
Andrew: It is dangerous though. Like speaking with a few HR experts over here who have a bit of a different approach, they said, the last 2, 3, 4, 5 years or so, business culture has been shifting so much that there’s a lot more reliance on the soft skills stuff, like on being a good person and having hobbies and creating a great environment, having a slide and a bar and all kinds of cool stuff at your workplace. Everyone feels amazing. We’ve forgotten about what they’re actually paid to do. Hey, you actually still need to do XYZ by this day or this time. We still need to generate this revenue because we can’t afford to pay you unless the business is performing that way.
So you have to marry in the metrics of performance and the environment of authenticity or transparency or acceptance or whatever that is, and try to ensure that they’re both there. I think that’s where building KPIs or metrics, you need to have, these are the actions that we want to see out of you, and this is the consequences of said actions that we want. They’re two separate things. We’re going to reward you for doing the right thing, but we’re also going to reward you more for being successful in doing that. As a result of that, we can allow you to find your way through your space without the saying, you have to earn X million dollars, and they just do anything possible to earn it. They destroy the fabric of culture.
John: Yeah, you’re right. Because if it swings too much towards culture only, obviously, then it becomes crazy. If it swings too much towards work only, then it’s, yeah, people are breaking laws and cutthroat and sacrificing their own health and mental wellness. So, either way, swings too much, it’s detrimental to the organization, either way. That’s a very good point.
Cool, man. This has been so much fun and such great takeaways for people listening, in such a short amount of time. It’s only fair that I allow you to turn the tables on me, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning. This is the first episode of the Andrew Van De Beek whiskey podcast. I don’t even know. Thanks for having me on as your guest.
Andrew: Well, thank you. Thank you, John. Listeners, thank you so much for joining us today. Special Guest John Garrett, he’s an amazing guy. He’s got a fantastic book, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. You’ve probably all heard it before. Anyway, John, I just want to ask you a couple of really quick questions. Would you rather jump on concrete or a trampoline?
John: Oh, okay. I think I’ll go trampoline. I feel like it’s a little softer on the knees. Plus, trampolines are fun, takes me back to childhood, and I can jump much higher each time that I land. Where, on the concrete, I’m probably jumping less every time that I jump after.
Andrew: Depends what you’re trying to achieve whilst you’re jumping, too. Do you want to be more control when you’re coming down? Well, you might want the concrete. Are you doing with others, double bounce? The double bounce on a trampoline gets you right up there. It also depends — so, to go to a tiny, tiny little bit of detail. I’d just written a blog about concrete trampolines, and the whole idea of it doesn’t actually depend what you’re jumping on, but what you’re jumping with and what you’re doing when you’re jumping.
In order for a ball to explode back up when it hits the ground, it has to deform all its kinetic energy becomes internal. Then it reforms and goes back out. I liken it to a bit of a situation a lot of businesses are in right now is, are you having to break things down to re-go? Well, then, we’re talking about a concrete jump right now. Or are you in a position where you’re good and you just need to get some good people around to double bounce you and making sure you’re not sitting on your hands? Because you can’t bounce if you’re sitting. You have to be moving up and down the force.
A second quick question for you, and this is good because you do a podcast. You speak a lot. You are often using your voice. Would you rather have a golden voice or a silver tongue?
John: Oh. So, I can sing well.
Andrew: I guess the golden voice is, they love the sound of you. They want to listen. The silver tongue is the words that you speak, the things that come out of there.
John: Probably the silver tongue in that what I’m saying is more eloquent. Because my voice is going to be what it is, man. Super Dave Osborne fans out there, like, wow, he’s amazing. It’s because I hit puberty every once in a while, out of nowhere, as a grown adult, which is fun, but probably — yeah. Because if it’s my voice, what I got now, that’s the average, we can pass with this, so, maybe a more of a silver tongue.
Andrew: I agree. I’m a bit of that. A positive silver tongue, obviously, I don’t want to use it for negative connotations. I’ve got one last question for you, John. Thanks. We’re going to have to wrap this up. We haven’t got too much time. Our listeners, they were going to get on with the rest of their day. Would you rather be on time and good, or late and perfect? On time and good or late and perfect.
John: So, having just written a book, this is very timely. I would rather be on time and good, but the perfectionist impostor complex, inner demon John is very strong and wants to make sure that it’s — I want to make sure that it’s absolutely perfect so that that critic, that inner demon can’t chop away. The done is better than perfect mantra is something that I’m working on and constantly working on. Eventually you just got to pull the trigger because it’s never actually perfect perfect. That’s probably like the whiskey. Do we keep it in another two weeks? I don’t know. It’s still really freaking good right now. Let’s just pull it.
Andrew: And if you are late, are you actually perfect? It depends on the situation environment you’re in. If someone’s waiting for you and you’re late, well, you’re not perfect. You’re automatically, you’ve potentially dropped a rung or two. If you’re on time and it’s good, well, that was good, but I was expecting more out of you. I was expecting something bigger. So, really, the environment sometimes depends. That question is one of my favorite questions to ask potential employees, is that would you rather be on time and good or late and perfect?
John: Yeah, that’s a very good question for people to ask. It’s been so fun, Andrew, having you on. I just appreciate you being a part of this. Thank you so much for taking time to be a part of What’s Your “And”?
Andrew: Awesome, mate. Thanks so much for having me.
John: Totally, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Andrew and some of his whiskey or outside-of-work activities or maybe connect with him on social media and get a link to his blog, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Kevin is a Consultant & Plane Spotter
Kevin Dawson, host of the Leaders & Lagers Podcast, talks about his passion for aeronautics and plane spotting! He talks about how his passion for planes correlates with leading teams in his career and how it serves as an ice breaker for establishing relationships!
• What plane spotting is
• Volunteering for The Thunderbirds
• Being the “air traffic control” of a team
• Breaking the ice in the office
• Your network is your net worth
• How his passion helped improve his public speaking and presentation skills
• How an organization can encourage employees to open up
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 353 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is published. You can check it out at whatsyourand.com. All the details are there. The links to Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites, everything’s there. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s getting the book reading it and then leaving such nice reviews on Amazon and sharing how their cultures have changed because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Kevin Dawson. He’s the VP of Agency Development in the West Texas Office of Colonial Life and the host of Leaders and Lagers podcast, and now he’s with me here today. Kevin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And?”
Kevin: John, I appreciate you inviting me to come on the show. I’m super pumped about this and looking forward to some great conversations today.
John: Ditto, man. I’m excited. I appreciate it. So, yeah, 17 rapid-fire questions right out of the gate here. Get to know Kevin on a new level. This will be fun. Here’s an easy one, favorite color.
John: Blue. Okay, mine too. All right, how about a least favorite color?
John: Pink. Yeah, there you go. All right, all right. Are you more chocolate or vanilla?
John: Vanilla. All right. Yeah. How about, more hot or cold?
John: Hot. Yeah, West Texas, that’s way hot. That’s stupid hot. How about favorite actor or actress?
Kevin: Favorite actor is Chris Evans.
John: Oh, yeah. There you go. All right. Yeah, you don’t hear that one very often. That’s great. Yeah, that’s a very good pick. How about, would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
John: Both. Wow. Okay, do you nap in the middle or?
Kevin: Yeah, I find time to sleep during the middle of the day. Early riser, stay up late, but, yeah, I like to siesta.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, good for you, man. That’s impressive. More Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kevin: Star Wars.
John: Okay. Yeah, me too. Me too. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac.
Kevin: Mac all the way.
John: Mac. Oh, wow. All right, way cooler than me, way cooler. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? Because I’m such a junkie.
Kevin: Oh, strawberry cheesecake.
John: Strawberry — oh, okay. So it has like the graham crust in there too.
Kevin: Yeah, you’ve got the cheesecake bites in it and strawberry swirled in. It’s phenomenal.
John: That sounds really good. How about, suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Kevin: Mixture. Jeans and then jacket top.
John: Oh, okay, all right. Yeah, in Denver, I think they call it the Colorado tuxedo or something like that.
John: Fancy. It’s perfect for Zoom, right? It’s just top half, boom.
John: How about oceans or mountains?
John: Mountains. All right, all right. What’s a typical breakfast?
John: Pop-Tarts. Strawberry?
John: Oh, okay, all right.
Kevin: A Pop-Tart with a cup of coffee.
John: There you go. Well, there’s fruit. It’s fruit, right?
John: It’s healthy. All right, there you go. How about a favorite number?
John: One. Is there a reason?
Kevin: Yes, and I’ll get into that here in a little bit, but there is a reason why one is my favorite.
John: Okay, all right. We’ll get into that. How about, since my book is out, are you more Kindle or real books?
Kevin: Real books.
John: Real books. Yeah, me too, me too. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Kevin: So far, New Orleans.
John: New Orleans. Oh, yeah, that’s a great answer. Yeah, it’s fun city, absolutely. The last one is the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Kevin: Favorite thing I own is a challenge coin gifted to me by Major Scott Petz of the US Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, Thunderbirds, when I had a chance to work with him in 2015. This is probably the most treasured piece I have of anything in the house. If anything burns down, as long as I have it.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s fantastic, man. That’s very cool. A challenge coin, they’re big, right?
Kevin: Well, most have half-dollar size, but this is — so typical size is like the size of this little eight.
John: It’s like a coaster.
Kevin: Almost, yeah. So, don’t lose this one. It’s a paperweight almost.
John: Right, right. The Thunderbirds, that’s very, very cool. That’s awesome, which dovetails perfectly into plane spotting. Which, what is plane spotting?
Kevin: Plane spotting, it’s almost like bird watching except you’re watching big metal birds, airplanes. I’m an av geek or aviation geek. Growing up, airplanes, aviation has always been a part of my life. My parents said, when I was little, we’d be driving down the highway, and I’m sitting in a car seat. I could spot a plane way up in the air. I’d start pointing and talking about it. They’re like, what are you talking about? Where are you looking at? Yeah, so plane spotting really is just plane watching.
I’ll still run outside — because I live real close to one of the smaller airports here in West Texas. I can hear a plane outside, and I can tell you exactly what the engine manufacturer is or what it may be. I’ll also hear something flyover, and I’ll run outside, if it is something that’s, that doesn’t sound like something normal, I’m going to check it out. Even to this day, I could be 99 years old, and I could hear an airplane fly over, and I’m still going to look up.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s very cool. It’s something, clearly you’ve been doing since you were a kid, as well, because you were pointing out — you’ve always just been fascinated with that. That’s awesome.
Kevin: It’s what I thought I was going to be doing. What I wanted to be doing was flying. I actually do you have a degree in Aerospace Science and a commercial pilot’s license, but life happened. That didn’t just end up being the career path for me, but I’ve stayed close to the aviation industry for a number of years. Even to this day, I should be — on a typical weekend, in a non-COVID year, I’m going to an airshow to go watch airplanes, or I’m going to go — like, if I go to Dallas, I was recently in Dallas, and if I’m by myself, there in the northwest corner of the DFW International Airport, there’s a viewing park for people to come watch airplanes take off and land. I’ll sit there for two hours and just watch.
John: That’s incredible. I didn’t realize that. Yeah. Do a lot of airports have something like that?
Kevin: They’re starting to have more and more because there is a lot of people who just want to sit and watch, take pictures, especially around bigger airports, if there’s land available. I know there’s at Van Nuys Airport in Van Nuys, California, which is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world, they have a viewing park on the other side that has a little playground attached to it.
John: That’s awesome. I grew up — my dad was in the Air Force, so we were always around bases. It’s mostly military planes, obviously, but the cargo planes as well. It wasn’t just the cool fighter jets. Yeah, I grew up knowing all the military aircraft and seeing the Thunderbirds every year and the Blue Angels and the, I forget what the Canadian group is called.
John: Snowbirds, that’s exactly what they are. Yeah, yeah. It was just cool to see, just all those groups and all those planes, and being able to go into a lot of them and all that. That’s neat. As far as the commercial aircraft, I don’t know any of the difference. I just get on them and then sit down and then put on my headphones.
Kevin: Yeah, for me, it’s like, I’m that weird guy who wants to get to the airport, an hour earlier, not so I can beat security lane. I run around like a kid in a candy store, wanting to watch airplanes, especially in the bigger airport. My airport here in Midland is five gates, and we have three airlines, Southwest, American, United. I get bored, but flying to Dallas or going to Chicago — I flew to Chicago for the first time a couple of years ago, and leaving Chicago, I knew that I wasn’t leaving till like 3:00 in the afternoon. I got to the airport 11:00, and I walked all the terminals, up and down. I think I walked five miles. I looked at my step counter. I walked five miles, up and down the airport, watching airplanes and just taking pictures out the windows. I’m surprised that security, like, what is this weirdo doing over here?
John: He’s picturing all these airplanes and everything. Yeah, but that’s cool, man. That’s fantastic. It’s also cool that it grew into the private pilot’s license and stuff like that. So, you’re way into it, which is cool. That’s awesome.
Kevin: It’s been a huge part of my life, and people know me as that kid who wants to fly. There’s a really great quote, and people attribute to Leonardo da Vinci, but I don’t know if he — but it’s still a great quote. It says, “For once you have tasted flight, there your eyes will look, and you’ll always long to be there.”
It’s like, for me, getting on an airplane, I’m always in the window seat because I’m just constantly looking. At an airport, I’m watching everything. I’m going to air shows. Or when the Red Bull air races were a thing, I went to a couple of those and watched those, and have worked air shows for 15 years. So, just being in and around, that’s still something that is just near and dear to my heart. My whole house is decorated — there are airplanes in every single room in the house. That’s just going to be part of who I am, regardless of what I do.
John: Right, right. Yeah, which is such a great way to look at it is it’s a part of who you are. Asking you to not bring that to work or life or social, whatever it is, it’s like, that’s always there. How much you talk about it, fluctuates, but that’s such a great point, man. It’s such a great point. So, going back to the number one, does that have something to do with the plane spotting or?
Kevin: The number one comes from — so, growing up, I think it was 1993, my grandfather took me to an air show in Arizona. We were there at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, and this was the first time I ever saw the Thunderbirds. We were there, and it was that moment like, that’s what I want to do. I want to be that.
So, for me, the ultimate dream job was to be the commander and leader of the Air Force Thunderbirds who flies the number 1 jet. So, I want to be the boss. I want to be in that role of that lead jet because there’s prestige when you are the commander. Whether it’s the commander of Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, Snowbirds, whoever, people want to be number one, say, hey, I’m number one. That’s why I want to be number one.
When life didn’t turn out the way I thought, man, I’m never going to get the opportunity to do this. Well, it’s so happened in 2015, I was volunteer for the air show here in West Texas. I had been volunteer for a number of years. The last time the Thunderbirds were here was in 2005. So they came in 2015. I was on the public safety team, and the head of our public safety team said, “Hey, I want you to be the Thunderbird liaison for public safety.” I’m like, cool, yeah, I’d love to.
Kevin: So, my job that week was to work with the team to make sure that they had everything they needed to secure the jets and make sure everything went well, in terms of how the crowd interacted, things along those lines. I remember it was a Thursday, right after lunch, and Major Petz and Thunderbird 8 and his crew chief, they land the day before. No, this is Wednesday because the team arrives on Thursday for a weekend. So, he arrives Wednesday. Thursday, the team arrives. I can’t believe I’m getting to be this close to the jets. Typically when you go to an air show, you’re maybe 150 yards away to being at the closest point. I walked up, and I could put my hand on it, on a Thunderbird.
John: Yeah, a Thunderbird is amazing, yeah.
Kevin: So, I worked with Thunderbird 8, who is the advanced pilot. His job is to be the first one in to make sure everything’s set up for the team’s arrival. He’s also the last one to leave. So, he arrives. The team arrives Thursday. Friday, they do their their rehearsal show. Saturday, Sunday is the air show. Sunday ends. They all pack up, and they leave. Before they left, that’s how I got that challenge coin, was Major Petz, call sign Cheetah, he’s like, hey, thanks for working with me this weekend. I’m sitting here on cloud nine. If they just would have let me sit in a jet and taken my picture, I could have died right there.
I remember one morning, I got too early, and Scott gets there. He’s like, hey, you want me to go take your picture? I was like, “What do you mean, like in the jet?” He said, “Not in jet, but we’ll take your picture in front of the number 1 jet.” So I got my picture in front of the number 1 jet. It was the most amazing experience in my life, was to say, hey, I got to be a part of the team for a week. Even if it wasn’t to fly, but it was just — I was part of the team, and they treated me as part of the team. I loved it. To this day, it’s one of my, I’m not going to say my greatest accomplishment, but my greatest memory.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. It comes full circle from when you were a kid and the first time you saw them and then your grandparents and stuff like that. That’s awesome. Do you feel like any of the aero background, whether it’s flying a plane, or being a fan of planes, or just knowing engines and planes and all that, do you feel like any of that transfers over to your work in human resources, and now in agent development and things like that?
Kevin: A lot of the things that I’ve learned along the way, airplanes are very different, come in different shape and size, they have different requirements and different needs. It’s like you’re working with a team. People are different. People have different needs. They come and go all the time. So, as a leader in business, I feel like I have to be like an air traffic controller sometimes. I’m directing people. I’m watching people and seeing, like, oh, someone’s just now coming into land, I need to make sure that their experience is great. Or this person’s getting ready to leave, I want to make sure that they have a great departure. So, there is a little bit correlation.
Even in the flight school training that I went through, we did a lot of crew resource management training, how to work together. You’re in a little metal tube, flying 500 miles an hour, 30,000 feet above the ground. You have to be able to work together and not have conflict and not do those things. It’s like, hey, you need to learn how to work together because if something goes bad, it can be really bad.
John: Really bad. Yeah, for sure. Those are such great parallels that I never thought of like that before, but you’re exactly right. That’s awesome. Did you ever share with people how into planes you are? I guess if they travel with you, they know.
Kevin: Oh, they know. If you walked into some of my offices, because I’m still waiting to get my new office all set up because, literally, we just opened up this agency. We have one office, and there’s four of us in there. We’re still trying to build things out. In my old office, I had blueprints for the TWA Terminal 5 at JFK.
John: Oh, wow. Okay.
Kevin: I have it blown up on my wall. I’m waiting to put those back up. I had model airplanes sitting on my shelf. So, people automatically knew. You walked in, oh, this is — you must like airplanes. I’m like, yeah.
John: You must be in the FBI. What gave that away?
Kevin: So, people, they knew right away. If not, I’d start talking about it. I can’t be in a conversation with someone for more than an hour before I got to start talking about airplanes.
John: Well, luckily, this whole show is about airplanes.
John: You don’t have to hold back. That’s cool, man. Those little things in your office, it’s not necessarily you blurting it out. It’s just people come in, they see it, oh, you want to have a conversation around it? Cool, ask me some questions, type of thing. You’re inviting those questions from people.
Kevin: Yeah, because it’s a great way to have an icebreaker. Working in sales, I walk into somebody’s office, and I look around and see what’s in their room. It’s a great way to just have a straight conversation about someone. People love to talk about themselves, so why not ask the questions, like, oh, I see that you have these over here, you must like this or that. If you don’t have some sort of personal element in your office, how are you going to get people to talk to you and get you to open up? Because if we’re just there to talk business, that can be really boring.
As much as people love the opportunity to talk about themselves, why not? It lessens the tension in the room. Especially if you’re in sales and you’re trying to win over a person you’ve just met, you want to find that common ground, whether it’s, hey, we both like airplanes. My brother is into Formula One racing, so his office has Formula One stuff in there. Or most people, they have a favorite sports team or something. They may have that, so let’s talk about this. Obviously, if you’re in Texas and you happen to have UT or A&M on the wall, be careful how you say things with certain people.
John: Right. Or if you went to OU, you just shut your mouth.
Kevin: Learn some of those same about people, and it makes for great conversation-starter, to find common ground, to find a way just to connect with someone and make them feel at ease because they’re just as nervous and have tension with you in the room. So, it’s a great way just to give you a little bit of who you are.
John: Yeah, I love that. I love those connection and that deeper, below surface level kind of conversations. For some reason, it’s easier for us to talk about that stuff. Just, we’ve got stories on stories on stories, but we hide behind the work conversation, which is more awkward for everybody. Really, it’s so weird to me how that is.
Kevin: Yeah. I think when when people just want to hide behind work and not make connections, it’s like, why? Your network is your net worth. Why not build it?
John: Wow. Yeah, that’s a great phrase. That’s exactly it. It even applies if you’re not in sales because you’re still creating these human-to-human connections, whether it’s with your coworkers, whether it’s with clients or customers. It’s that human-to-human interaction that’s still — and it just flourishes when you get to those hobbies and passions.
Kevin: Absolutely. For me, it was because of aviation, my passion for aviation that actually allowed me to learn how to speak confidently in front of people. I used to be the shy kid that if you asked me to stand up in class and give a presentation, I hated — I think most people probably have some sort of fear of public speaking because it’s nervous.
One of my very first jobs, I worked for a World War Two Aviation History Museum as education coordinator. I had to do presentations to teachers and students, but because it was something that I was passionate about and I loved to talk about, I could talk all day and not feel nervous.
As that confidence began to build, my audience began to grow, and I could talk in front of 100 people, 1,000 people, get up on the stand at an air show to 100,000 people, and say, here’s what we’ve got going on at the museum in the next couple weeks, and here’s why you need to get involved in all these different things. It was not anything nerve-wracking. It allowed me to build my confidence because I got to talk about my passion.
So, my transition into HR and talking about leadership development and culture development and when we had to build teams, those are other passions. It allowed me to build on those and say, oh, you want to have me come speak in an event. How many people are going to be there? 10? Great. 10,000? Not a problem.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s such a great example of even just, like in the book that I talk about, of just have groups of one person each week or each month or whenever you have the all-staff meeting or the department meeting, get up and talk about your hobby or passion, three to five minutes. Because, like you said, you’re nervous talking in front of people, but talking about airplanes, oh, I can do that all day long in front of how big, I don’t even care how big the audience is. We can do this all day. It’s just an easier way to get people into that routine and realize that, oh, I do have the skill that I can bring to the office.
Kevin: As a leader, if you’re asking people on your team, hey, share one thing that you’re passionate about or one personal goal that you have, you learn a little bit more about that individual and can build deeper relationship with that person.
John: That’s exactly it. You’re accidentally learning more about them in a way that you’ll actually remember, sort of a thing, as opposed to just, well, what their job was. Well, so what? Everyone’s got the same — everyone in that department’s doing the same thing. It’s not a differentiator at all.
How much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that space and encourage that, and how much is it on the individual to maybe just start in their little circle of cubicle area, the couple people that are close?
Kevin: I think, for organizations to make people feel included, you have to have that ability to say, hey, you’re coming here not just to be this. You’re bringing the whole person to work. You’re not just bringing your business self to work. You’re bringing the whole person, so your whole person may have a whole bunch of different things in there. We want to know you as a whole person, not just what’s your title. Who are you? Successful organizations will do that.
Also, as an individual, you have to take that step to say, I’m going to bring my whole self to work. I’m going to establish myself and want to get to know people, and I want them to get to know me on who I am because I can’t separate the two. People who can separate the two, I feel like they’re psychopaths. What is wrong with you? It’s like, no, I want to see a little bit about who you are, who’s your family?
Some great stories that I feel like — one of my good friends who was on my podcast for Episode 50, when he was the leader of a former business, he had a guy on his team who loved to barbecue. He wanted to become a barbecue pit master, but it was more of a passion project for him. We’ll give you feedback on it. We’ll help you figure this thing out.
Along the way, he found out that there’s going to be a barbecue competition here in West Texas, and he got his senior teams to, hey, we’re going to go enter Jeff into this competition and let him actually see what it’s like to do it. He’s been talking about it for so long, let’s get him there. He does this, and he comes in last place. You just don’t win the first time in a barbecue —
John: Well, Texas, especially like, forget about it.
Kevin: Jeff came back, so pumped to be at work because he knew that his leaders believed in him beyond more than what he just did at work. They believed in him as a whole person.
John: I love that example. That’s so great because it’s, yeah, we care about you, and we’re celebrating this. We think it’s awesome. Go do it. Who cares if you came in last place? It’s still –we weren’t in it, so you’re way ahead of everybody else. So, who cares?
That’s the thing is you enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if you’re flying number 1 of the Thunderbirds, or you’re sitting at an airport, watching airplanes, taking pictures. It doesn’t matter. You enjoy it. You don’t have to be this world-record-breaking level to share or be excited about it. It’s what lights you up. I think that’s cool. To have your organization’s leadership back you like that is a great example. That’s cool.
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been great along the way because people recognize that passion. Sitting behind me, there’s a lunchbox from Southwest Airlines that they sent me, full of peanuts. I was doing — a couple of summers ago, I flew Southwest eight times in two weeks.
John: Holy cow. Okay.
Kevin: Every time I go out flying, I’m taking pictures, out the window, getting that winglet snapshot to put on social media. We had just landed in Dallas, and I take a picture out the window. You see the winglet, and you see downtown Dallas at the end of the runway.
John: Oh, nice.
Kevin: Yeah, there’s nothing better than than Dallas and Southwest. They saw that and said, hey, can we we share this, and we want to send you something. They sent me a pair of Southwest Airlines dress socks with the Dallas skyline.
John: That’s super cool.
Kevin: I was like, I’m going to be a fan for — I mean, I was already a fan for life with them, but it was just that much more engagement. Or I have a friend who, he’s like, hey, I’ve got all this — he worked for Southwest for a number of years. He had like beer glasses with Southwest etched into them. I’m like, of course I want them. I’m easy to shop for, for birthdays and Christmas. Just find an airplane on it.
John: Anything with airplanes. Yeah, that’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. It’s so cool that you share it and you live it. It’s synonymous with who Kevin Dawson is, is airplanes, type of thing. That’s something that people are going to remember, for sure. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe they love airplanes and their job has nothing to do with it, or they have a hobby that they think no one’s going to care about?
Kevin: I’d say just be you. Come out and let people get to know you. Let them know what your passions are. You may find that someone else shares that same passion. You have a best friend at work. You may find a spouse at work that way. 40% of people meet their spouse through work. Be yourself and don’t be ashamed. Don’t treat it as a guilty pleasure. I have guilty pleasures. My guilty pleasure is ‘90s boy bands. I’m not afraid of that.
John: Okay. For the Follow-Up Friday, we’ll do that one.
Kevin: It’s just you. Don’t be afraid. Let people see it. You may never know what comes out of it.
John: I love that. That’s so great, so perfect for everyone to wrap this up. Before I do, it’s only fair that I turn the tables. You, of course, have your Leaders and Lagers podcast. This will be much less professional than that. We’ll just call it the Kevin Dawson Show, Episode One. Here we go. I’m your first guest. Thanks for having me on.
Kevin: Yeah. So, fast questions. It’s 5:00 somewhere, what’s your go-to drink?
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, I’m a cider guy. Pineapple cider, I’m into now.
Kevin: ACE Cider?
John: Yeah, ACE is really good though. Yeah, we’ll go with that one because I can’t think of something else of the top of my head.
Kevin: Pineapple cider. I really enjoy that one. Pineapple is my favorite fruit. That’s a great…
John: Yeah. It’s like, wow, why didn’t they think of this a long time ago? This is great.
Kevin: Who are you listening to right now?
John: For music-wise?
Kevin: Music, podcast. We’re both in the podcast business. Who do you listen to, podcast-wise?
John: I don’t listen to podcasts. I guess I’m a creator and not a consumer. I don’t know. I’ve listened to some on occasion. If a friend’s on or somebody’s like, oh, you got to listen to this interview, it’s really great; then I’ll listen. As far as subscribing and listening on a regular basis, I’m terrible. I don’t know. Yeah, I’m not — I’m busy making mine, so I don’t know.
Kevin: Fair enough.
John: I don’t want it to bleed in.
Kevin: All right, final question. Since I already put it out there, what’s your guilty pleasure?
John: Oh, guilty pleasure. College football is definitely going to be something that, I guess, I watch way too much of and will decide how things are going to happen on a Saturday, based on when the game starts. That probably means I have a little bit of problem.
Kevin. No such thing. No such thing as a problem there.
John: Yeah, right? I didn’t think so. I mean, ‘90s boy bands, they’re great, too. soulDecision, we can go all the way back. I mean, probably just Peanut M&M’s, ice cream. You’re starting to make me realize that nothing I do is really good for me. This is like an intervention. This is weird.
Kevin: I drink beer on a podcast, weekly. Sometimes more than once a week. I’m checking in on Untappd with a beer at 10:30 in the morning, doing an interview. People are like, do you have a drinking problem? No, no, I don’t.
John: No, I do not. I have no problem at all. I’m very good at it.
John: That’s awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kevin, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This has been really fun.
Kevin: John, I appreciate it. This has been great. I’m looking forward to future conversations. Thanks for inviting me on show.
John: Absolutely, yeah, and everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Kevin or maybe connect with him on social media or check out his Leaders and Lagers podcast, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and check out the book.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Nikole is an Accountant & Aussie Rules Footballer
Nikole Mackenzie, President of Momentum Accounting, talks about discovering her passion for Aussie Rules Football, how she applies her values in sports to her accounting firm, building a company based on flexibility, and more!
• Getting into Aussie Rules Football
• Winning the National Championship
• Picking up Golf during the pandemic
• How her values learned from playing sports is applied to her career
• How business can be a personal aspect of life
• Building her company based on flexibility
• How the organization plays a major role in company culture
• People are really interested in people
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 351 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop and a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in-depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, just changing the cultures where they work because of it. It’s really cool to see.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Nikole Mackenzie. She’s the founder and president of Momentum Accounting out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and now she’s with me here today. Nikole, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Nikole: Hi, John. Thanks so much for having me, and congrats on your new book. I can barely get myself to write a blog post, so I go insane when people can write an entire book.
John: Well, thank you so much. It’s 200 pages, so let’s not get to carried away. It’s pretty overwhelming to be an author. It’s like, who’s an author? That’s weird. I guess me now. I’m going to wreck that party. I have 17-rapid fire questions to drop on you, get to know Nikole on a new level right out of the gate here. Hope you’re ready.
Nikole: Okay, let’s go.
John: Okay, here we go. Chocolate or vanilla.
Nikole: I like chocolate, chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
John: Okay. All right. There we go. All right, maybe a mixture. Why not? Live your dreams out. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Nikole: I like crossword because I can cheat and Google things.
John: That’s so good. That’s awesome. Yeah, you can’t cheat on Sudoku unless you just flip to the back, I guess, and see the answer key. That’s a good call. How about a favorite color?
Nikole: I have to go Momentum Accounting blue.
John: Nice. Yeah, that is a good blue. I like that. How about a least favorite color?
Nikole: I don’t really have a least favorite color. I think highlighter — you know when you try to highlight something in Excel, and it’s that yellow? I hate that yellow.
John: Right. No, that’s a good call. Yeah, excellent choice, excellent. How about prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot. Yeah, okay. All right. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
John: Neither. Okay, fair enough. How about a trilogy of any sort?
Nikole: You know when I just started watching Game of Thrones, I’ve been avoiding it for the last, however long it’s been around, 10 years, and I have to have my boyfriend next to me explaining everything because it’s very complex. I hope to get an update on that.
John: Okay, I have not seen it, so you let me know how it is. You and me, we’re the two lone people that hadn’t. Now it’s just me, apparently, so there’s that. How about your computer, PC or a Mac?
Nikole: I always had a PC, and I just changed to a Mac in January of this year. I’m still getting used to the Mac, but I think I’ve converted to the Mac world now.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, impressive. All right. How about a favorite ice cream flavor, besides just plain — is it just plain vanilla or do you like it loaded up there?
Nikole: I’m a very simple woman. I like pretty much all ice cream. I have a preference for vanilla-based ice creams, so, anything with chocolate, peanut butter, mint chip. Ice cream is one of my favorite food groups.
John: Oh, for sure, and I love that you called it a food group. I’m with you on that, 100%. That’s awesome. How about, here we go, heels or flats?
Nikole: Flats. I have to be able to run at any time.
John: Okay, all right, all right. Knowing you, I figured you could run in heels as well. I just was like, well, why not? There you go. Here we go. This is a fun one. As the accountant, balance sheet or income statement?
Nikole: Income statement, totally.
Nikole: Yeah, that’s the exciting part. Every month, when I pull up my income, when I see it goes up; I’m like, heck, yes.
John: There you go. Yeah, balance sheet, it’s all hidden and weird. Yeah, exactly. How about, oceans or mountains?
Nikole: In California, I prefer the mountains. I would say there are other countries where I would definitely prefer the ocean.
John: Okay, yeah. All right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Nikole: I don’t have a favorite actor or actress, but I’ve been rewatching all of the New Girl episodes. I’m obsessed with that show. I really love that show.
John: It’s Zooey Deschanel, right?
Nikole: Yeah, and then the other guy, Nick, in that show, I don’t know what his real name is.
John: No, that’s a good pick, good pick. Yeah, those are good peeps. What’s a typical breakfast?
Nikole: I have two over-easy eggs for breakfast every day.
John: Oh, nice. Okay. You don’t have to think about it. Nice. That’s perfect. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Nikole: Night owl. I’m very slow in the morning. I do not like to work out in the morning.
John: All right, so those over-easy eggs are at like 11:30.
John: I’m kidding.
Nikole: Espresso, exactly.
John: I’m teasing. I’m teasing. How about, since my book’s out and you’re kind enough to comment on it, Kindle or real book or, I guess, audible book?
Nikole: You know what, ever since I got an iPhone, I’ve been terrible at reading real books. I listen to everything, either through podcasts or audible.
John: Yeah, yeah, that seems to be super popular. Mine will be out in a couple of months, actually, because people kept asking.
Nikole: Yeah, I’m waiting for that.
John: Yeah, and then you could double speed it, and then it’s super-fast. Favorite number.
Nikole: 16. That’s always been my soccer number.
John: Okay. All right. Yeah, that’s a great number. Well, especially in the Bay Area, you’ve got Joe Montana. That’s great. Perfect. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Nikole: My two Maine Coon kittens.
John: Okay. How long have you had those?
Nikole: We got them in March. One of them is already, like, 17 pounds. They’re massive cats.
John: Oh, wow, that is a big cat. Wow, that’s awesome. Very cool. All right. Well, let’s chat Aussie Rules Football. This is so cool. How did you get started playing that?
Nikole: I used to play in a kickball league in San Francisco. It was one of the kickball league/drink with your friends’ leagues. We used to get picked up at 5:00. We have Thursday nights. Everyone would go to the bar, a bar called Bar None. There’d be a party bus that would pick us up and drive us all the way out to Golden Gate Park. We would play kickball, and then we would get on the bus. It would drive us back into the marina district and drop us off of the bar again. We would just hang out, play foot club, all that.
It was a Thursday night. I was back at the bar, and one of the girls that played on the footy team, saw me. I think I was doing high kicks or something. She comes up to me, and she goes, “Hey, you look athletic and fun. Do you like contact sports?” I said, “Sure. What have you got?”
John: Right, like, right now? Let’s do it.
Nikole: Yeah, but this is great. She invited me to come to practice. I went to practice. We practiced out on the Marina Green which is right with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The sunset as were practicing is amazing. I actually have a tattoo on my rib of the Golden Gate Bridge after we won our first nationals. Our teammates got it together. Anyway —
Nikole: — I went to the practice, and I was like, oh, this is a cool sport. I played my first game. Immediately, the first play of the game, I picked up the ball, and I didn’t know what to do with it because I just started playing. The biggest girl on the other team steamrolled me, just absolutely knocked me over. I was like, okay, this is Australian rules football.
John: That’s incredible. Welcome to the club.
Nikole: Exactly, that was like a big welcome. Then I’m like, okay, I see what this is all about. So then I jump in, I tackle people. As a woman, I never had the opportunity to play football or any sport where I tackled anyone, so I just was like, this is awesome. Why have I never been able to do this before?
John: It’s pretty incredible. It really is.
Nikole: So, yes, that’s how I got started and just absolutely fell in love with the game. It flows a lot like soccer. For anyone that doesn’t know what Australian rules football is, the best way that I like to describe it is it’s a combination — if rugby and soccer had a baby and made a sport.
John: Okay, there you go.
Nikole: Yeah, so it flows a lot like soccer in that you can go any direction. Whereas, rugby, you can only go backwards. I grew up playing soccer, played in college, so my spatial awareness is very good with footy because it’s similar in that way to soccer. The way you pass the ball to your team is you either handball it or kick it. You can’t throw it. If you throw it, it’s turned over to the other team. You have to handball it, which is basically holding it with one hand and hitting it with the other.
John: Like a volleyball serve almost or like the underhanded volleyball serve.
Nikole: Exactly, exactly. That’s why it’s like, when you tackle someone, it’s different than, say, a football tackle where you’re going for the legs. Footy, you’re actually trying to wrap them up so that they can’t use that other hand to hit the ball.
John: Oh, right. Because as you’re going down, you could hit it to somebody else.
Nikole: Exactly, exactly. You want to get your arms around them completely, and you pull them down to the ground.
John: That’s definitely different. That’s for sure. I love how it’s like soccer where it flows, and there’s not a lot of stoppage, I guess, if you will. Yeah, it just kind of flows more.
Nikole: Yeah, exactly. It’s like nonstop action.
John: You can’t drop that you won nationals, just out of nowhere. What was that all about?
Nikole: So, GGFL is our club in San Francisco. There’s men’s team and women’s team. We play locally with each other. The women’s team is split into three because we’re smaller, and then the men’s team has seven teams. When we play other cities, we come together as one club. The women’s team, all the smaller Metro teams come together as one. When we play, there’s — if anybody’s interested in Australian rules football, there are clubs across the US, in all the major cities. Our women’s team, we’re actually the four-time national champs.
Nikole: It was so amazing. On the first time we won was, we took over — Denver had been the reigning champs for five years, and now we’ve taken over the women’s team. Yeah, that was absolutely amazing. As I mentioned, myself and a couple of my teammates ended up getting a tattoo after, to celebrate the first one. In the recent national championship, I actually was awarded Most Valuable Player of the tournament, which was huge for me.
John: Congratulations. That is you huge, of the whole tournament.
Nikole: Of the whole tournament, yeah.
John: You’re the LeBron of footy. That’s so cool.
Nikole: It was a real special tournament for me. Then since COVID has happened, we haven’t been able to play, so I’ve been getting really into golf to replace that. I get really obsessed with things and when I get in — for example, with footy, as soon as I knew that I liked it, before nationals, I obsessively worked out and obsessively practiced because I’m like, not only do I want to win the national championship, but I also want to get MVP. I had that in my mind before going into the tournament. Now I’m feeling like I’m doing the same thing with golf. I’m like, okay, I’m going to play five days a week now. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to be really good at it.
John: Right? Well, that’s the thing. Even with golf, for me, I don’t play enough to be able to get angry at myself anymore. Because that’s how I used to be, was all like that. Then I was like, I don’t do this enough to get angry at myself, so it’s more of just trying to get better within my own lane. Good for you. You’re all in on it. That’s awesome.
Nikole: I’m still not good by any means. I just like the the process of getting better at something and seeing that, yeah.
John: No, I agree. The phrase, “I enjoy golfing,” is so much better than I’m a golfer. People don’t really ask you your score. I enjoy golfing. All right, cool. Where do you like to play? Or how’s it going? It’s less aggressive, I guess, and less weight on you.
Nikole: Yeah, I played in a tournament the other day. I won the tournament, but only because I think I had the worst handicap. They asked me what my score was. I gave him a score. They said, what’s your handicap? I said, I don’t know. I just started playing, and said, okay, give me double bogey over or something like that. They’re like, oh, you win. It’s like if Italy gives the US Soccer Team three extra goals because —
John: Right, just because. Yeah, that’s silly because it’s like, I don’t know, my handicap’s 50, so it’s like minus 50. What do you know, you shot under par. It’s like, no, I didn’t. I lost four balls. That’s hilarious, but good for you. There’s that competitive side to you even in college, playing soccer, and I’m sure growing up, playing sports, obviously. There’s that side of you that wants to feel that. I’m glad that you’re able to find that now, even when footy is on hold for a bit.
Do you feel like sports, in general, or even team sports or I guess, now, golf or just this whole exercise of getting better at something, do you feel like that gives you a skill that translates to your accounting career?
Nikole: Yeah, definitely. Momentum Accounting is the name of my company, and the reason I chose momentum is because I wanted it to be sports-related. When I was first trying to come up with a name, I remember I was at dinner with some of my friends. I was, I really want it to be sports-related, all the values I’ve learned over the years, playing sports, and I was talking about how I’ve gotten a few more clients. One of my friends was like, “Well, it sounds like you have a lot of momentum going.” I was like, boom, that’s it.
If you read my website, the whole theme around it is the values that I’ve learned as an athlete and bringing that same mentality to the way that we work with our clients. A lot of it internally. Our team, my staff, we work as a team. All of our clients have at least two team members on that account because I really think that there’s a lot of value in solving problems with multiple people involved.
Also, when we’re collaborating with our clients, we don’t just take on any client. We do a lot of due diligence upfront to make sure that when we bring on clients, they’re a good cultural fit with our team. Because we’re building a culture and it’s really important that everyone works well together.
Also, there’s this other side of me that’s very much like, there’s a better way to do things. With my team, anyone that works in Momentum knows that there’s going to be a lot of change frequently because I never get satisfied with like, this is the status quo, and this is how things will always be. If there’s a better way to do it, I want people to recognize that and identify that.
We bring that same mindset to our clients when we start working with them. We’re like, here’s the way you’re doing your accounting, or here’s some of the technology that you’re using. Well, here’s actually a better way to make your business more efficient, get you out of the day to day work, so you’re not dragged down by some of these accounting issues, quality issues, so that you can be free to run your business and be better than your competition.
John: I love that, how it’s bringing that team mentality. I love how, on your website, the references to sports and your background and that mentality. Was there ever a point that you thought, hey, maybe I shouldn’t share this because it’s not like we’re doing sports things. We’re doing accounting. Was there ever a part that crossed your mind? Or was it the opposite, where it’s, no, I need to be sharing this because that’s our differentiator?
Nikole: I wouldn’t say that I had doubts about that, but definitely not wanting to scare someone off if someone comes to us, and they’re like, hey, I’m not competitive. I’m just trying to run my business. Then I thought about, and I’m like, I don’t think that’s the type of client that would work well with us. This goes back to being my authentic self and portraying ourselves exactly as the company is so that if anyone were to work with us, we’d want it to be a good experience.
To me, business is personal. It gets personal, especially now that we’re all on Zoom. We were already 100% remote before COVID. So, you’re seeing into our houses, we’re seeing into yours. You’re talking about your personal life. Because that spills over into your business if you’re a solo owner of a business, and that’s what you use to fund your livelihood, then that’s personal.
John: Very much. No, I think it’s great. I think it’s very cool. I just was curious on the mindset behind that and walking through that. I agree totally, it’s just a lot of people are reluctant to share that side or hide it or whatever. I think it’s great that you’re not only sharing it, but you’re leaning into it, which is cool. It’s cool to see, for sure.
I guess even before you started Momentum, like early on in your career, were you open to sharing that sports side of you, or was it something that didn’t really come out until you started Momentum more?
Nikole: I think that I was — I mean, people knew about it when I was at my old firm. I organized a software team for our firm. I didn’t share it in detail. It was just something people knew that I did. It was always important to me to have that part of me, and I would never compromise. I worked in public accounting. There’s obviously a lot of hours in that. I would never compromise my health and fitness for work. I think that it was important for me to be a good employee, but I made it very clear that fitness and this part of me is very important. It’s a deal-breaker if I can’t do that.
Actually, when I left my old firm, there are several reasons why I left, but part of it was because I wanted to — so, for Aussie rules, every three years, there’s an international tournament. I made the national team, so I wanted to go play in Australia. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do that, while working at that firm. At the point where I wanted to quit anyway, so I was like, I’m just going to quit, so I can go and do this. Long story, but I didn’t end up getting to go because I had an injury, but what was part of it was I wanted to have the flexibility to be able to do stuff like that.
John: Yeah, and it’s something that’s super important to you as a person, to Nikole, not just Nikole, the accountant or the CPA, what have you, whatever title. It’s something where organizations, if they embrace that, which it sounds like you have with Momentum, then you have a better understanding of that. Your people just care so much more, if you let them breathe a little and get to shine a light on some of those outside-of-work things and get to go do them.
You’re on the national team. That’s something that — I mean, that’s a marketing dream for a firm. Hey, we have someone on our staff who is on the national team for the Australian rules football. That’s just a cool thing that it’s a shame that organizations don’t even find out or want to find out about that kind of stuff.
Nikole: Yeah, exactly. When I started Momentum, I just tried to build a workplace that is what exactly what I wanted. It’s mostly just around flexibility. Because, like you asked the question at the beginning of the podcast, are you a morning or a night person, I’m a night person. I work late at night, and that’s my best thinking.
At the end of the day, if everyone on my team gets their job done and is still creating exceptional client experiences for our client, then I’m happy. It doesn’t matter when you do it. If you’re traveling the world and working and getting your job done, that’s great. Good for you.
John: Right, yeah. As long as, at the end of the day, the output is there, I don’t care when or how or whatever. Just as long as the output’s done by the date that I needed it, then we’re great, sort of thing. It’s the micromanaging. You hire people that are adults and intelligent, and then you go and treat them like they’re a five-year-old. That’s just not going to get it done at all.
How much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture where sharing is a thing? Or how much is it on the individual to maybe just start the little circle amongst themselves? Or is it a combination of the two of those?
Nikole: I think it’s a combination of both. I think some people just tend to be a little more closed off, if you’ve ever been in a conversation with someone and you try to ask them, and it doesn’t get deeper. Definitely, the organization — and it’s something as simple as having a weekly –if you have a weekly meeting, call it, starting the first 15 minutes with a question, or asking people how their week — what they did this weekend. Just those little interactions will give you a lot of detail about somebody’s personal life and allow you to understand what drives them and what their interests are.
Those little things that you can build in, I think, to add more structure of it, if you’re not one that naturally — there’s a lot of personality types of people that they’re not the type of people that ask, how was your day, right? How would you do this weekend? It’s just not natural, or maybe they don’t like it. If the organization can facilitate that type of way to add some structure to getting that information from people.
John: Yeah, exactly. It almost gives people permission. Oh, well, it’s a thing. This is a thing that we do, and we’re not going to get in trouble for it. Or they’re not trying to bait and switch. Let’s see who shares and then we fire all those people. That’s never happened. That’s never happened, but for some reason, in our brains, we tell ourselves that.
Yeah, this has been really great and really cool to chat about all this. Do you have any words of encouragement for people listening that might feel like they have a hobby or an interest outside of work that no one’s going to care about because it has nothing to do with work?
Nikole: Yeah, there’s one thing that I’ve learned, and I would say, even the last couple of years, is that people are really interested in people. There are things about myself that I think are incredibly boring because I know I do them. I’ll go up to someone, and they’re like, wow, that’s so cool. I’ll do the same thing with other people where they try to hide something, and I think it’s the coolest thing about them.
People are always trying to walk this fine line between, am I being arrogant by talking about myself? I don’t think people should be shy about sharing who they are because at the end of the day, if you can make a personal connection with someone, that’s going to last longer than any kind of surface level business relationship.
John: Yeah, I love that last part, especially. It isn’t bragging if it’s true. You asked. This is what I did. It’s not bragging. It really isn’t. You can start small, with a little bit, and then it’s like, oh, wow, and then they’re interested. Then you can drop that I was MVP of the tournament. Oh, that’s cool. You don’t have to lead with that necessarily, but it’s still cool and fascinating. Like you said, it’s the coolest part of people and yet people are reluctant to share that. It’s like, trust me, I’m going to forget you altogether if you don’t share this one thing. For the love of God, just do it, type of thing, and it’s so critical to do that.
Such great advice, Nikole. That’s awesome. Before I wrap this up though, I feel like it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to rapid-fire question me, since I peppered you at the very beginning. We’ll make this the first episode of The Nikole Mackenzie show. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. I booked myself. That’s how it happens. Do you have any questions? I’m all yours.
Nikole: Oh, this is fun being on the other side of the table. I have a deeper question for you, not such rapid-fire questions. You’ve done over 300 episodes of your podcast which, huge congratulations. I rarely see podcasts that have done that many episodes. What has been your ROI on doing all these podcasts? That could be monetary. That could be experience that you’ve had, people you’ve met. I just want to hear about why you do this podcast.
John: That’s a really great question. Yeah. The podcast started as a lot of research, honestly. In What’s Your “And”?, in the book, there are 41 different people that have a quote in the book. I wrote the book and then the publisher was like, wow, these podcasts are awesome. Do you have any of them transcribed? I said, “Yes, all of them.” They said, “Wow, that would be so cool.” So we went back through and dropped in some quotes that support what I was already saying in the book anyway. So that was a big piece of it.
I also think it’s really important to share each other’s stories. Professionalism tries to tell us that there’s one way to be successful as a professional, and there’s not. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people on the podcast that are all totally different. They’re all successful in their own way. They all have different outside-of-work interests, different personalities, but they’re all successful. So I think it’s really important to show people that, here are people talking about their outside-of-work interests, and giving people that safe space to be able to do that. Because in the workplace, we don’t always have that. At networking events, we don’t always have that. In professional settings, we don’t always have that.
I think just creating that safe space to share those outside-of-work interests so then other people get to see, oh, wow, okay. Because sometimes when I speak at conferences, people will come up and be like, well, I heard what you said, but we’re still accountants. It’s like, no, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. I’ll just bring up the Instagram feed. I’m like, see all these people? They all have outside-of-work interests. You see how they’re all smiling? Yeah, let’s go to their work headshots, probably not smiling, necessarily. So it just is that.
The financial side of it is, there’s no sponsor. There’s no anything. It’s purely me. It’s a 100% expense from my side, but I feel like it’s an investment on the brand and doing the research. Also, just getting people to see, this is normal. Just go to the podcast, listen and keep listening because there’s all kinds of different people.
I don’t know if that necessarily totally answers your question, but, yeah, it’s significantly less financial, or it’s long-term, I guess. It plays out not in direct, money from the episodes because it’s negative, but in people hearing about it and, oh, we should have him come speak at our conference. Or now that the book is out, share the book with people and just get the message out there more.
Nikole: Awesome. What are your long-term goals?
John: I just want to shatter the stereotype. I want people to say, when they say the stereotypical accountant, they’re talking about Nicole Mackenzie, they’re talking about me, they’re talking about other people that are out there, the stereotypical professional. They’re talking about people that have outside-of-work interests, and the people that don’t have those, I don’t even know. It’s like, you’re the oddball. You’re the one that — you’ve got to step up. You’ve got to get something. I want just that to become normal.
How cool would it be if a little kid, instead of saying, “When I grew up, I want to be an astronaut,” no, “When I grew up, I want to be an accountant or an engineer or a lawyer,” just some kind of professional white collar nerd-type job that we all have or had, type of thing. That would be super cool. Just me personally, it’s consulting with organizations to build those cultures around those outside-of-work interests, have that be the core of your culture.
John: This has been super cool, Nikole. I appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And?” Thanks so much.
Nikole: Thank you so much for having me. This was super fun, and it was great to get to know you better. I cannot wait until we can actually see people in person because I love going to conferences and and seeing all my accounting friends.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Nikole in action or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and check out the book.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Michael is a Consultant & Dog Photographer
Michael Puck, Senior Partner of Human Insights Group at UKG, talks about his passion for dog photography, his findings on how dogs can benefit your mental health, sharing dog photos in webinars, and much more!
• Developing a connection with dogs
• Getting into photography
• Mental health benefits of dogs
• Sharing his passion at work
• Meeting with prospects the night before a presentation
• Adding your hobby to your email signature
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Welcome to Episode 349 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the podcast, you can go even deeper into my research with my book. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading the book and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Michael Puck. He’s a senior partner with the HCM Advisory Group at UKG, and now he’s with me here today. Michael, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Michael: Hey, John, thank you so much for having me. I am super excited about our conversation.
John: Me too, man. We’ve had a couple of phone calls. This is going to be really cool. First, I have some rapid-fire questions that I’ve never asked you and I probably should have, the first time we talked, now that I think about it. No, I’m teasing, but get to know Michael on a new level here. Here we go. Here’s a good one, oceans or mountains.
Michael: It would have to be a combination of the two. I get easily bored just laying at the beach. Hiking is mandatory. So, a combination, I would say.
John: Mountains that go into the ocean. That works. We can make that a thing. How about a favorite sports team?
Michael: Yeah, see, I’m not a spectator, so I might need to pass on this one altogether. Now if you ask my son, it would be the Tennessee Titans, but you can see, I can’t even get the voice out saying the name.
John: That works. That works. How about a favorite band or musician?
Michael: It has to be Pink Floyd. I have followed Pink Floyd, probably for 30-plus years. Let me be more specific, Comfortably Numb, in case you’re familiar with that song, is my absolute favorite. I can listen to it over and over, for hours.
John: There you go. That’s awesome. Very cool. All right, how about a favorite number?
Michael: 13, simply because I wanted to be different. Most people would say, oh, 13, but that’s the reason why I pick 13.
John: Nice. Good for you. Okay, all right. How about, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Michael: Yeah, so I have never watched, in its entirety, a single Star Wars movie. I know I’m outing myself really badly here, but I fall asleep well without watching these. So, Star Trek is definitely my preference, and you probably just lost half of your listeners because of that statement.
John: It’s all good, man. It’s all good. This one though, this one could be. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac.
Michael: Well, as a photographer, it has to be a Mac. Meaning, all the post-processing can be done only on Macs.
John: Yeah, I believe it. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Michael: The name of the flavor is Malaga. Have you ever heard of Malaga?
John: No, I haven’t.
Michael: No? So, I grew up in Europe, and the only excitement that we had during the summer, growing up, is an ice cream cafe, an Italian ice cream cafe on Main Street. Since there wasn’t really much else to do, I spent many summer afternoons and evenings with my almost-street legal motorbike, at that ice cream cafe.
The interesting dynamic was there was always a large group of people, mostly bikers, and they came for two reasons; the ice cream, but they also wanted to watch others drive by. Those driving by knew there was a crowd of spectators, and there was a red light about 200 meters down from the ice cream cafe. The goal was always to pull up the bike on one wheel and drive by the ice cream cafe on one wheel while waving with one arm.
The reason why this is so entertaining is about 10% of all bikers had the skill to pull it off. The other 90% didn’t, but they still tried to. You saw motorcycles coming by with its riders on it. Then you saw folks running after their motorcycles. So, I tried a lot of ice cream, different ice cream flavors, during that time, but the main attraction was really seeing motorcycles crashing somewhere left and right.
John: That’s hilarious. That’s so funny, but Malaga, I’m going to have to check that out, for sure. I’m a huge ice cream fan.
Michael: It’s an acquired taste. It has a light flavor of rum. It has crushed hazelnuts and whole raisins on something like a vanilla base.
John: Okay. All right. Yeah, no, that sounds good, and the hazelnut, that’s sneaky. It’s good. It sneaks into stuff. It’s in a lot of stuff. It’s all good. That’s awesome. Oh, here’s a fun one that somebody asked me that I’m going to throw to you. Socks or shoes.
Michael: Definitely socks. I don’t wear shoes all that frequently, but I always wear socks.
John: Yeah, I said that too. Since you’re in the HR space, people or processes.
Michael: Yeah, so the right answer is people, but since I’ve been in HR for 20 years — I’m not in HR any longer. I’m just working in a related field to HR. I think I coined, some 20 years ago, the term, this job really would be a walk in the park if it wouldn’t be for the people. People is what makes it interesting, but people also is what makes it frequently quite painful.
John: Yeah, or rewarding, if you’re doing it right. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Michael: Yeah, no, I need to pass on both of those. I have more hobbies and interests than I have time, and that just fall by the wayside.
John: No, no, I totally understand, totally understand. How about a favorite color?
Michael: Dark gray with orange. This is not a play on the University of Tennessee. I was a big gray and orange fan before I moved to Tennessee. I just love those two colors together.
John: Yeah, okay. How about a least favorite color?
Michael: Yellow. Yellow is kind of weak.
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Michael: I would say, in recent years, Saint Lucia. It’s a nice vacation place. If I go back to Germany every so frequently, Cologne is probably my favorite city within Germany. There are many other places I love to go.
John: Yeah. No, those are two great places. That’s fantastic. How about chocolate or vanilla, just in general.
Michael: I can officially quote you that 28% of all people prefer vanilla over any other ice cream flavor because I just integrated that in one of my presentations, but neither of the two really does the trick for me.
John: Okay. All right, all right. That works. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Michael: Yeah, so that’s a good one. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Let me date myself, Sean Connery, I think who passed away earlier this year, is one of my favorite actors simply because I love the accent, the Scottish accent. On the female side, I would say Jodie Foster. I first noticed her in Silence of the Lamb, and that came out in 1991, so, yeah, old movie.
John: Yeah, exactly, and really great characters that they played as well.
Michael: Yeah, I agree, great skill in playing those characters.
John: For sure. Two more. Early bird or night owl.
Michael: Definitely early bird.
John: Okay, all right. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Michael: The favorite thing I have is probably my Canon 1DX. That’s the way I channel creativity and capture things people can’t see with the naked eye. I also like to expand that question a little bit to say my three dogs are probably the favorite furry personalities that I have around. I don’t say I’m owning them. I don’t refer to them as things. They’re very near and dear to my heart.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome, which translates perfectly into your “And”, especially the photography side of it, with the Canon. How did you get started with the photography? Was it something that you did when you were younger or got into later? How did that start?
Michael: The photography itself started relatively late in life. I would say, maybe six, seven years ago. My attraction to dogs, on the other hand, is way older. It’s a 50-year-old love story. When I was four years old — and that’s really what makes photography such a powerful tool for me, the relationship I have with dogs.
When I was four years old, I burned both of my legs. I was in the hospital, in a Burn Unit for three weeks. Nobody was allowed to visit me, not even my parents. After three weeks, I was released. My parents picked me up, and I was a changed child. I couldn’t understand why my parents didn’t love me anymore, why I was in so much pain. Really, I was the polar opposite from what I was previous.
My family dog, and that happened a few years after coming back out of the hospital, but my family dog, a black Lab, was really who reintroduced me to the world around me. The bond I was able to create with that dog was absolutely incredible. I never experienced anything like that. I would even say my dog was the only living being that I trusted because I didn’t trust people. Meaning, I was stuck in a hospital, in pain, and nobody showed up for three weeks. Three weeks, on drugs, at four years old is like eternity. So, I’ll share that much. That might be a little too much sharing.
John: No. It’s cool that that connection with the dog, though, that got you out of that, to find who you were.
Michael: I was together with her for 14 years, and I tell you, I cried probably for two days when she died. I had nightmares, my parents trying to kill me, until I was 27 years old. That was all processed memories and feelings and emotions that were generated that early life, through that incident. Yeah, her name was Cola. She was a lifesaver for me.
So, I was always big into helping animals and dropping food off at the animal shelter and raising money, but it always felt like there was something missing. It wasn’t quite enough. When I then made the connection in my late 40s, that photography as a tool could be really powerful to help animals, this is where this whole thing mushroomed from one layer to another in an incredible way.
Initially, it was helping shelters with pictures to get attention to dogs that needed homes. Nowadays, I’m working with a lot of rescues and prevent dogs from going into the shelter in the first place. I also do private photo sessions and charge real money for the memories that I’m creating. That money is then used in order to help shelter and rescue animals.
The most recent project I’m working on is creating a global dog art gallery. Because I’ve actually found out, over the last two years, that businesses have a vested interest in, not only having dogs around, and many businesses cannot have dogs around, but to have images of dogs in their client, customer and patient-facing environments.
John: Oh, okay.
Michael: Yeah, and so that was somewhat of an aha effect for me. I hired a researcher in Australia, and I said, find out every single piece of scientific evidence that has ever been created, how dogs impact people. She came back with a boatload, and that boatload of information created a long list of what dogs do when we interact with them.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. If you have a dog around, you’re 21 times more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I’m not sure if you have a dog, if you have —
John: We have a dog, absolutely. It’s a terrier mix.
Michael: Have you ever been out in the park, walking the dog, and people just walk up and say, “Oh, isn’t he cute?”
John: Yeah, exactly. They’re like talking to the dog. That’s how the conversations start, mostly. Or the dogs are talking. My favorite is my wife will voice what the dog is thinking. She didn’t even know she was doing it. Then we ran into someone else who was voicing their dog. So, the two humans were having a conversation of what the dogs were saying. I wish I could have recorded it because I was dying laughing. It was the greatest thing ever. But you’re right, it opens you up.
Michael: There’s an official term, and that it’s called, dogs have a social catalyst function. Here’s another really interesting piece of information. Across the 45 US Presidents, they had a total of 230 dogs while in the Oval Office, 230.
John: Oh, wow. I didn’t — wow.
Michael: If you do the quick math, that’s about five dogs per President, and the only exception is our President currently in office. Because dogs make us more human. That’s one of the traits, when we have dogs around us, then we are seen in a softer light.
John: Yeah, that’s interesting. So, have you had dogs all of your life then, or is it something where there were some periods there were — I mean, life happens?
Michael: No, I certainly had a couple of decades where I didn’t have dogs. I was in the military, so having a dog there wasn’t all that viable of an option. Then I moved from Europe to the US, and I was moving around quite a bit, so a dog was not really an option either. 15, I think 17 years ago is when my wife and I decided that we needed to have a furry companion.
Right now we have three, and that’s a good number for us. We found three is kind of the magic spot for us to have dogs around, and our entire lives circle around our dogs because they are, even though they might not be trained therapy dogs, but the way they help, the way they emotionally balance you out, especially with the pandemic. My wife had said many times, if it wouldn’t be for our dogs, I’m not sure I would make it through this.
We have a really cool routine. Every night at 9:00, we watch about 45 minutes, something on Netflix, and we invite our three dogs to jump on our master bed, sit with us. They fall asleep within 10 minutes or chew on the bone for 45 minutes, whatever. The harmony that’s being created, and the love that’s being there, it’s just so much fun. It’s so calming. It’s kind of the last thing that we do before we officially go to bed. It just makes for great, good night’s sleep, and everyone is happy. The dogs go into their spaces. It’s just a great routine.
They’re around us all day long. I have, normally, one or two dogs in the office with me. I’m working from home and have done so, for the last 10-plus years. I just love my companions around. Occasionally they bark, or they lunge at the cat, or they do something they’re not supposed to. They’re also really good protectors against FedEx and UPS and United States Mail Service.
John: Exactly. Our dog is the same. He must think that he’s an 800-pound gorilla because everyone leaves, like the delivery guy. Oh, hey, and then they leave. Of course they leave the package. He doesn’t understand that bark.
They are so intuitive. I went through some really bad health stuff in November, and it was just cool to see how he was more nurturing then, as opposed to — because we play a lot. I’m kind of the peer, and my wife is very much, he listens to. I’m like his brother, kind of, so we always have fun, and tug of war and all that. He definitely could tell that I wasn’t doing well. It is cool.
Just having them around, that’s just cool to hear that you’ve experienced that. Also too, with the rescue and the fostering and helping with that is really awesome as well, because then you can pass that feeling onto others, so they can experience it too.
Michael: Even on a large scale, meaning, doing photography and then handing over pieces of art, as I call them, where the dog owner can connect by looking at the picture with the soul of the dog, meaning — some of your listeners are probably saying, okay, he’s a little cuckoo, but…
Michael: There is that connection. Research has actually found that if we look at the eyes of a dog or the picture of a dog, our oxytocin level increases by up to 300%. That’s the feel good hormone that puts us at ease.
I’m working right now with the Wealth Management Office. Most of my customers these days are actually businesses. The Wealth Management Office, they signed up. They wanted eight of their employees to have pictures taken of their dogs, and they want to put these pictures in their new office space because they realized the bonds that people have with dogs extend way beyond your own dog. Meaning, if you’re a dog-lover, and 67% of the US population owns dogs, then you immediately react to a picture of a dog on a wall.
The person that is in that environment, the business person, the wealth advisor, in this particular case, that trust that the dog is generating is immediately extended to that person. I know from a CPA and tax perspective, everywhere where you deal with money, trust is really important.
John: Huge, yeah.
Michael: I have businesses in all kinds of different categories that they love to show my love of dogs, and if it helps my customers, my prospects, even patients to feel relaxed — the research that has been done in clinical settings on how much people heal faster and improve quicker when they have dogs around, and you’ve probably seen therapy dogs or read about stories of therapy dogs in hospital settings. They come in for five minutes, maybe 10 minutes, and then it might be another two or three days before they show up again. How about expanding that with having pictures of the same dogs, and the patients are constantly reminded of that relationship and that positive feeling.
There’s a huge application in service businesses. Lawyers, believe it or not, are big clients of mine because there’s also this really important trust relationship.
John: Yeah, and it humanizes you. It humanizes the office. It brings a little emotion in, as opposed to whatever kind of generic art that you have hanging that you got at IKEA or wherever.
Michael: I know, and this is so important, John, because think about it this way, if you can bring your “and” out, meaning if you are a lawyer or a CPA, a wealth advisor, if you can show something that is important to you that is not business-related, and you can even use that as an icebreaker to start talking with your prospect, your customer; the relationship-building goes so much faster. People connect with you as an individual and not with you as a service provider of some kind. That is super powerful, especially at times of pandemic and social distancing where people are craving to have this type of connections.
When I heard you speak on a podcast about your upcoming book, I was lighting up like a Christmas tree because —
John: Well, thank you, man.
Michael: — I immediately, I saw immediately the powerful connection that’s there.
John: It’s just interesting to, yeah, just have that human relationship first and then that’s where the trust happens. It’s not over memorizing all the work and being the best technical person. I guess that translates over to, so, do you share this side of you at work?
Michael: Yeah. I share actively, and I share passively. Meaning, if I go on video, the folks on the other side of the line can see my dog pictures hanging in my office. That’s the passive sharing. That, in itself, triggers a lot of conversation right there. I also present a lot of webinars these days because I’m not traveling to conferences any longer. I have yet to present a topic where I could not figure out how to put a picture of a dog in the presentation.
John: Nice. I love it, so good.
Michael: When it comes to webinars, it’s a very, very easy one. I take a picture of my four dogs, which we had until recently. I say, hey, I’ll just like to introduce you to the unofficial participants of this webinar. They’re not officially on the speaker roster, but they’re likely to chime in, so why not say hello right now because here they are. Then I introduce them by name.
John: That’s awesome.
Michael: This way, I get my picture in. I get maybe a sentence or two in about what I do outside work. So, for everyone who does, either participate or host webinars, you have the chat function, you have the Q&A function. I get, immediately, the comments flying in, look at the cute dogs. Immediately that connection is there that you want to build with your audience fast. So, yeah, whenever there’s an opportunity, I’ll certainly take advantage of that.
At work, I’m known as the dog photographer. Quite honestly, it’s not two different things. It has really become one, in many, many aspects. I’m not sure if you’re ready to go there, the connection between dog photography and doing consulting in the HCM space, but I’ll be happy to give you a couple of examples.
John: Yeah, no, absolutely, because I would love to know, yeah, how does this translate into work, or does it, at all?
Michael: Yeah. No, it is as effective as it is on the webinars. Because with the pandemic, I have been on a number of client-facing meetings, and what do you do first when you meet somebody for the first time? You build rapport, and dogs is a very safe topic to ask. Since I know that two-thirds of the population have dogs, and there’s normally something, there is either a wallpaper on my laptop that shows the dog pictures, so when I hook up my computer to start the presentation, I’ll make a point to have my dog show up first, before anything else comes. That normally starts the conversation right there. So, it’s a really good icebreaker.
Then you get to know — something else I’ve done, again, prior to the pandemic, always meet with prospects the evening before, for dinner, so that you have the opportunity to have a conversation about something other than work. Even though I’m not sales, I’m just a consultant, I’m just a strategist, I’m just trying to help with insights, having this personal one-on-one connection and learning about animals that they have, hearing the stories, and you know how this goes. Folks pull out their phone, look at my pictures, and it goes back and forth. We’re just sharing pictures of dogs, and 10 minutes in, we’re best friends. The official meeting hasn’t even started yet.
John: Exactly. I love that so much, that you were doing that even before you read my book, but how much that resonated with you, just means so much, and how it’s not just bubble theory, make-believe. It’s like, no, no, this, legit, works, and it’s simple. It’s just maybe not easy.
Michael: Quite honestly, I find it very easy because it is, who wants to learn — if you meet for dinner, the evening before you have a business meeting, the client doesn’t want to hear about the software that you’re going to sell them. That’s really not the purpose. You want to have, on purpose, a discussion that is not related to the business topic that you’re discussing tomorrow. You really make a genuine effort in getting to know them, and I think the easiest way to do that is to be curious about them. If you have areas where you know it resonates with you very quickly, you ask about dogs or you ask about the children, and that normally leads to the dog discussion then.
John: Love it. I love it.
Michael: This can fill an entire dinner, just talking about children or furry companions. That’s really the whole purpose, getting to know them so that you don’t have to walk cold into the environment the next day.
John: Yeah, I love that so much. That’s such a great takeaway for everybody listening, is something to do that they could start right away, or having a meeting that’s intentionally about something that’s not selling you something.
Michael: Quite honestly, when I schedule my flights, I always schedule my own flights because I want to have the flexibility to arrive the afternoon before so that I can make it to dinner. That’s always the most important part of my interaction with the prospect. Because I’m not the one who has the opportunity to build rapport, over time, and go back every two weeks and meet with them. I’m normally just flown in for a one-time gig. They have something that they need. I have the piece of information I wanted to share. It’s a one-time opportunity. I need to be very efficient in the way I build relationships. I found, having that social contact, upfront, and speaking about nothing work-related is the best way to set up the professional meeting on the next day. Now, it doesn’t always work, but I think it’s a powerful method to use.
Something else that I found, over time, as a photographer, I work with Photoshop and Lightroom and all those pieces of software that are very sophisticated, and sometimes you want to pull out your hair because it doesn’t do what you want it to do, but I also found, in my work, in my consulting work, that I have become more visual. I really try to relate through visuals. We’re not talking pictures of dogs here. I’m just saying, how do I visualize the concept versus how do I describe it with words? Looking through a lens of a camera and seeing the world in pictures much more focused than the non-photographer, I think imagery has become a really powerful tool for me. That’s something that photography has — meaning, it has always been there, but photography has further enhanced that skill, and that’s really fun. Then, again, I always put the picture of the dog in the presentation as well.
John: Right. Whether it’s the presentations that you’re giving, or it’s the collateral that you’re giving to the client, or even just how you visualize things, because you’ve seen it through the Canon lens, you see the world differently than how we see it with just our naked eye.
Michael: It’s an active form of meditation, the way I’m looking at it, because you always look around. You acknowledge beauty around you differently than people that don’t stop and smell the roses, just to use that cliché. Because when I see a formation of clouds over the horizon in a tree line, and I might be driving down the road and the rest of the family is just staring out, looking for the traffic ahead of us, and I’m looking over to the side while driving, saying, “Beautiful clouds over there.” The comment from my wife is, “Focus on the traffic.”
John: Exactly, exactly.
Michael: You do appreciate the environment differently because it almost always feels like you frame something up in the camera, and that helps with visualizing. That helps with finding the right visuals to support a story. I think I’ve become, over time, a visual storyteller because of that.
John: That passion outside of work makes you better at work.
Michael: It’s also the energy that I’m generating, knowing that I’m saving lives. This doesn’t drop, the moment I sit down to do work work. Meaning, that carries over. It’s always in the back of my mind. I think it increases creativity. It makes me more and more productive. It makes me look at different angles. I think I’ve also become a better business person because running a nonprofit, it’s a shoestring operation, and every dollar I don’t spend on something else, I can use in order to help animals. Again, that’s also something that I carried over to the business world where I now ask the question, can we do this ourselves? Can we do this at half the cost? Do we have to do it now? Can we wait three months? All these questions make you really operate as if the business money is your own money.
John: It’s amazing how intertwined things are, if we step back and just think about it, where normally we don’t. Similar to the smelling the roses concept where, if we don’t take the time to step back and think about it, then we don’t think about it. We don’t realize it either. It’s just powerful to hear how much you’ve done on that, and it’s cool to hear. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe feels like, no one cares about my hobby, or it has nothing to do with my job?
Michael: I love brainstorming. I’m probably one of the world’s greatest brainstormers. Meaning, I’ll do a session or two, a day, just because I love it so much. I would say, if you take just — and it’s not a long amount of time that you need, but if you take five or 10 minutes, you sit down, and you just dump out every potential connection point, without a single filter, to say, what I do outside here is something that could benefit work in the following way. I included that in a presentation I was delivering a few weeks ago, and I randomly picked three things. I think a marathon runner was one of them, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club was one, and the third one, I can’t think of right now. I just picked randomly three and I said, okay, how could those things that I do in these environments, how could they be applicable at work? Because I wanted to challenge myself. After I did the first three, I did another three and another three. I could not come up with a single positive hobby or passion that I was not able to translate to something meaningful in a business environment.
Just to give you one example, the Boys and Girls Club, if you volunteer in that environment, you have to be a role model because they look up at you. They’re like little sponges. They soak everything in that they see. So you have to hold yourself accountable at a different level than being by yourself. You do that frequently enough, you assume that role model function. Well, guess what? They need role models at work. They need mentors at work. They need folks that step up and help others at work.
I would challenge, John, if there’s anyone who’s in your audience that says, I do something that cannot be translated; send it my way, and I’ll tell you what —
John: Provided it’s legal and not taboo, like on the fringe, then yeah, absolutely. It’s a very basic thing. If no one else does it at work, it humanizes you. As a leader, that’s super, super crucial that you are a human, as opposed to an all-knowing whatever, feared dictator-type, which a lot of leaders are in the corporate world, unfortunately. It’s kind of that. That’s awesome.
Michael: It’s sad, but some environments don’t encourage it. Quite honestly, even something as simple as putting something in your signature, email signature that gives some indication of what you love doing. Meaning, do something, it’s absolutely powerful.
John: Just show a little bit of the human and see what happens. Magic, for sure. Well, this has been so much fun, Michael. It’s only fair though, before I wrap this up, that I turn the tables, since I peppered you with questions so rudely right out of the beginning.
Michael: Yeah, it was terrible.
John: It was terrible. It was terrible. So, the first episode of the Michael Puck podcast. Thank you so much for having me on as your guest, despite all of your efforts to block me from being a guest.
Michael: Yeah, John, I was working hard on it, but in the end, you made it to the top of the list because there was no one else who wanted to be interviewed. So, let me ask you a couple of questions. Let’s get it over with quickly.
John: Okay. Okay.
Michael: Now, as I said, I enjoyed, and I hate saying this, but I really enjoyed reading your book.
John: Well, thank you, man. I appreciate it.
Michael: What do you plan to cover in your second book?
John: Oh, man, writing a book is hard, Michael. Writing a second book, I’m told, is easier, but when the first one’s really hard, the second one’s still hard. I don’t know yet. I guess the first book kind of had to be written. It kind of just presented itself of, this needs to be written, so I guess, whatever shows itself that needs to be.
I feel like some people want more of the stories from the podcasts, more of that. Some people want, well, what’s the next level thing? What’s like a 201 of this, implementing this? Now, when I speak, how does this affect lifetime employee value? If you ask, what’s your “and” at very important touch points of a person’s career at your organization, then how does that lengthen their stay? How does that improve their value that they’re providing to the organization? The area under the curve sort of concept.
Yeah, I don’t know, maybe seven more books, we’ll make it a whole series, Michael, and let’s go nuts. No. If it needs to be written, I’ll write it, but I don’t need to write a book just to write a book. That’s a lot of books.
Michael: To take the pain out of writing the book, just think about what topic would be fun to write about. Based on the feedback that you received, and I’ve seen you’ve gotten a lot of five star reviews on Amazon, probably plenty of questions, comments; is there anything that you recognized afterwards where you would have said, I would have loved to include this, but I wasn’t quite evolved enough in my thinking when I was writing the book, but now that I’m getting the questions about it, I’m thinking, ah, yeah, that would have been a great chapter or a great piece of information? Is there anything that you would want to add?
John: I guess, the writing the book, it wasn’t necessarily painful. It’s a journey. It’s a journey. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about your ideas. You learn a lot about, what is the philosophy that you’re throwing out there that’s unique, that’s you, that’s not already been said? Because I definitely pushed myself hard to write a book that hasn’t been written before. I don’t want another leadership book because there’s 100,000 of them. We don’t need another one. There was that.
I think that everything that needed to be in that book is in it. I think that I’m really proud of it, in the end. I guess because it’s only a couple of months old now, it’s not like anything glaring right now, but I do feel like maybe a little bit deeper on that lifetime value of the employee is a different concept that kind of puzzle pieces in with What’s Your “And”? So then, how do you use What’s Your “And”? How do you apply this more than just my module three that has some examples? I think people really need to see, how does this apply in the real world? How can we do this? Because people aren’t necessarily creative on their own to make it happen, so maybe something like that.
John: Excellent. Going back to the last piece of your book, what are your top two recommendations for companies to enable their people to bring their whole selves to work? You had only two pieces of recommendation you could give but it’s not something that’s impossible to do.
John: Yeah, I think the simplest, simplest ones are, and you brought up earlier, like the email signature, just at the bottom of your email signatures, I enjoy dogs and photography. It doesn’t have to say a label. It could just be, I enjoy this. Because then you don’t even have to be good at it, but it’s also in your email signature. Some people will see it, and some people won’t. Both ways are awesome. I guarantee that you just throw that in there, and it’s a subtle way to open the door for people to start to have a human conversation with you. That’s a simple one.
Another one that I’m a huge fan of, is a weekly coffee chat, which you can do virtual, you can also do in person, where it’s, every Monday at 9 am, we do 15 minutes of hang out and chat. How was the weekend? I know you were taking some pictures at this rescue. How did it go, Michael? Let’s see some of the pictures. Or I know you were running a marathon, how was it or whatever.
It’s asking people about those “ands” but in a dedicated meeting time that is not work, similar to your dinner before the sales meeting the next day. It’s a weekly thing with just your little team, your little department, doesn’t have to be 200 people or whatever. It’s a handful of people and just talk. How’s life? What’s up? Because then you understand what people are really going through and what’s going on outside of this. Especially with the pandemic and all that, there are so many things affecting people’s ability to do their job, and knowing those will help you understand things more. So, those are two simple, simple things that you could do.
Michael: That’s great, John. I appreciate you indulging me in those. We actually, at work, we started something a few weeks ago. We always have Monday morning meetings, and we bring our weekends into the conversation, but we wanted to be a little bit more focused on that. So the question now is, what’s your sunshine from the weekend? What’s your cloud from the weekend? You have two specific pieces of information to share. Then the rest of the team would just go around the table. Everyone is sharing. There’s good dialogue around it. You get to know people better. Exactly what you just said, it’s a mechanism, but it’s not just hyping on the positive. It’s also saying, hey, if something went wrong, feel free to share it. Because even there is opportunity to help and to console and to be human.
John: I love it. That’s a such a great example. That’s why it’s your podcast. That’s exactly it. So, thanks, man, for having me on. I appreciate it, Michael. No, but this has been so much fun and really great and so many great takeaways for everybody listening. Thank you so much, Michael, for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Michael: John, absolutely my pleasure. As I said, I hugely enjoyed reading the book. I have enjoyed every single conversation we had so far, and today was certainly no exception either.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Michael’s work or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re in the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Don’t Be Afraid to… Take the Initiative
TURNING TO ONE ANOTHER by Margaret Wheatley
There is no power greater than a community discovering
what it cares about.
Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.
Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
Invite everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.
Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
Rely on human goodness. Stay together.
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
What’s Your “And”? Links
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 348 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and thought I’d kick your week off with a little bit of Monday Musings. I’ll be coming in on Mondays when we don’t have the Follow-Up Fridays, to just start your week off right with a little bit of What’s Your “And”? messaging, a little bit of the research that I’ve come across and some of my thoughts.
I thought I’d share with you a poem that I came across, by Margaret Wheatley, and the name of the poem is Turning to One Another. The reason why I’m sharing this with you is because I think the words in here are really great and really dovetail nicely with the What’s Your “And”? message of just not being afraid to take the initiative, that’s one of the chapters in my book, and just talking about how, no matter where you are in an organization, even if you’re in charge of a small team, or you’re a manager in charge of a couple of teams, that you don’t have to be at the very top to set the tone of what your team does and how it operates.
You can make an impact on your culture and get people talking about their “ands” and those outside-of-work hobbies and passions and interests, no matter what level you’re at. It just takes someone taking the initiative, showing a genuine interest in the people around them, and definitely the top-down approach makes it easier. If the tone at the very top is that way, and encouraging people to have a life, outside of work, and not only have that, but share it and shine a light on it; that definitely makes it easier.
Even if you’re in charge of a small group, you can still set that tone with that small group. In the end, it also takes people jumping in and trusting that and being involved and wanting to share as well. That’s a really important thing, but it takes someone taking that initiative. That’s why one of the chapters of the book is Don’t Be Afraid to Take the Initiative. I just hope that this week, you can take that initiative to share your “and” with some people you work with, whether they’re co workers or clients or customers, and then encourage others to also share theirs. Just ask them, what is it that lights you up? What do you love to do outside of work?
So, this poem by Margaret Wheatley, titled, Turning to One Another.
There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” and then keep asking.
Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
Invite everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.
Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
Rely on human goodness. Stay together.
Again, that’s Margaret Wheatley’s Turning to One Another. I just love so many parts of this, but just how you don’t fear people whose story you know. When you have those connections with coworkers and clients, but especially coworkers, you don’t fear them. The negative feedback isn’t so negative. The connections that you have with those people are so much stronger and richer because you know what lights them up, outside of work, what they’re “and” is. It just brings people closer together, and expect to be surprised. You’re going to be surprised. There are so many cool people around us if you just take a moment to ask, and the work will get done. The work will get done. Just take time to have a genuine interest in the people around you and just turn to one another, especially in this time of working remotely and what have you.
So, I just want to encourage you to don’t be afraid to take the initiative this week. Hope you have a great week. Wednesday, we’ll have another great interview coming up, and look forward to hearing from everyone. If you would like to be a guest or know someone who should be a guest on What’s Your “And”? because they have a hobby or passion outside of work, please don’t hesitate to reach out, whatsyourand.com All the links are there. The book link is there as well. Have a great week.
Thank you so much for sharing the podcasts with your coworkers and your friends and for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this message that we’re all trying to spread which is who you are is so much more than what you do.
Barbara is a CEO & Skier
Barbara Turley, CEO of The Virtual Hub, talks about her passion for skiing and how it plays a role into her career running a company and challenging yourself towards mastering a certain skill!
• Getting into skiing
• How her passion for skiing has impacted her career
• Talking about skiing at work
• Building the culture at The Virtual Hub
• You can’t help everyone
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 347 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the show and what it’s all about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are on whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in-depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it, writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Barbara Turley. She’s the founder and CEO of The Virtual Hub in Chamonix, France, and now she’s with me here today. Barbara, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Barbara: It’s such a pleasure, John, thanks for having me.
John: This is going to be a blast, my first guest from France. This is exciting.
Barbara: And you got the name right. You got Chamonix right, even with a bit of a French twang.
John: There we go. Anything besides Chardonnay, I don’t know. Now, I know two French words, so we’re good. So, rapid-fire questions, 17, right out of the gate, get to know Barbara on a new level here. I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one, I think. Chocolate or vanilla.
John: Chocolate. Oh, there you go. Sudoku or crossword puzzles.
John: Or neither. Okay.
Barbara: Neither really.
John: Fair enough. Fair enough. How about a favorite color?
Barbara: I’d say orange.
John: Orange. Okay, all right. How about a least favorite color?
Barbara: Blue. Wouldn’t be least, but blue, probably bottom of the pack for me.
John: All right, all right. How about, do you prefer more hot or cold?
Barbara: Oh, tricky. Cold, I’d say. If I’d pick, I’d say cold.
John: All right, all right. How about, do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Barbara: Oh, I don’t. I’m not big into — no, I don’t, really. I think Kevin Spacey is pretty cool, but I don’t know. He’s controversial these days. Anyway, he’s —
John: As an actor.
Barbara: Yeah, as an actor he’s really good.
John: You can separate the person from the art. So, yeah, absolutely, as an actor, yeah. Great. How about, more of an early bird or a night owl?
Barbara: Early bird.
John: Early Bird. Okay, all right. How about, more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Barbara: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. Yeah, me too. Absolutely. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Barbara: A Mac, all the way Mac.
John: Oh, wow. You are way cooler than I am. I am not that cool. Good for you. Good for you. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I love ice cream.
Barbara: Oh, salted caramel, got to be salted caramel.
John: Oh, yeah.
Barbara: Here in France, ice cream is the thing, and salted caramel here is just incredible.
John: That’s awesome. I wonder who thought of that? Hey, how about we put some salt in it?
Barbara: I don’t know, but that’s just…
John: It’s genius. It’s genius.
John: It really is. Would you say more heels or flats?
Barbara: I want to say heels, but I’m very tall, so I end up wearing flats a lot. I’m more heels though. If I were shorter, I’d be heels all the time.
John: Good for you, good for you. There you go. How about, oceans or mountains?
Barbara: Oh, tricky. I’ve lived in both, and I — oh, gosh. We’ll get into this later. I have to say both there. I love both.
John: Fair enough, the mountains that go into the ocean. We’ll count that.
Barbara: Yeah, yeah. I need a bit of both.
John: There you go. What’s a typical breakfast besides salted caramel ice cream?
Barbara: Look, I like the traditional porridge, oats with a bit of fruit compound on it really. That’s my… I do love a bit of toast and raspberry jam. That’s always nice too.
John: There you go. Okay, very cool. How about, do you have a favorite number?
Barbara: Eight, I think.
John: Okay. Yeah, that’s a good answer.
Barbara: I don’t know why, but I looked at that question earlier, and eight popped into my head, so there you go.
John: There it is. That works. My book’s out. I’m excited about it. Kindle or real books.
John: Kindle. Okay.
Barbara: You know why? I can carry the whole library in my handbag. I’m a big reader.
John: There you go, exactly.
Barbara: I love books, but really, you can only bring one book or two. Whereas, you can carry a library with you with a Kindle.
John: Exactly. The accounting background and you’re CEO, so you probably carry, a balance sheet or income statement.
Barbara: Income Statement.
John: That last one I have, a favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Barbara: I hate saying this. I hate my answer, but I have to be truthful. My iPhone. I couldn’t live without it really. It’s like my savior. Two young children, my iPhone is like the escape.
John: It’s like, slash, your third child.
Barbara: Yeah, it is. It is. It is.
John: If you lose it, it’s equally crucial.
Barbara: Yeah, that’s right.
John: Of course. Good answer. Wait a sec, we’re already in there. So, let’s jump into skiing and just outdoor adventures in the mountains, by the ocean. Did you grow up doing this, or was it something that you got into later in life?
Barbara: No, I didn’t. I was brought up in Ireland, and I didn’t have any skiing in my life until I was in my 20s. I wasn’t brought up near the ocean at all. I did a lot of horse-riding when I was a kid, and I still do a bit of that. It is one of my other passions. I have many different passions. In the last 15 years, I haven’t been doing much of it, but I was brought up doing a lot of horse-riding actually. Neither mountain nor ocean, but I always had a fascination with those two.
John: Right, right. So then how did you get into the skiing side?
Barbara: Look, after years of trying to convince my parents that we should go on a skiing holiday — I mean, in Ireland, when I was that age, many years ago, you had to fly to Central Europe, and only extremely wealthy people went skiing. It was this sort of thing, so we never went. Nobody in Ireland really went at the time.
Eventually, I convinced a boyfriend of mine, when I was in my early 20s, that we should go skiing for a week, and we had a ball. We went skiing. It was one of the best couples holidays I think I’ve ever been on. We had a great time, and I was hooked. I was completely hooked after that.
John: That’s so cool. Is it something that you do regularly? Now that you live in France, you’re right there, pretty much.
Barbara: Yes. I spent, as I was saying to you before we recorded, I spent the last 17, 18 years living in Australia actually, in Sydney, beautiful Sydney, Australia, by the ocean, right by the ocean, so I woke up every day to the ocean. My husband is Hungarian, and he’s from Budapest. Every year or every second year, we would travel back to Europe. Every time we came home to see family, we would always come to Chamonix where my best friend happens to live, and we would always go skiing.
It’s been quite a big part of my life for many, many years. Just, I did a ski season in New Zealand, about 15 years ago as well, for a few months, so it’s always been in there. I’ve been skiing in Australia many times as well, and in New Zealand. So, yeah, it’s been a pretty active part of my life for many years. More so now because I live in the mountains now. I live right on the slopes.
John: Yes, it’s down the street. Or not even, it’s in the backyard. It’s just right there.
Barbara: It’s part of the mountain.
John: Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s really cool that you’re able to, yeah, just move closer to it and make it, well, a bigger part for a longer time, as opposed to just a vacation week or a month or something like that.
Barbara: Well, look, coming back to Europe, both my husband and I are both European, and we always said that if we came back to Europe to live, that we’d like to be closer to family, but that we would like to be also moved to the mountains. Because we’re both skiers, so we were like, that’d be pretty awesome. Now, we planned this for about 10 years, to be honest. We’ve now pulled it off, which has been great.
We did have this dream of — and many people who are skiers out there and snowboarders will be listening to this, going, yeah, my dream would be to work and live in the mountains. You can make it happen, but it took us a long time to figure out how to make this happen. So, yeah, the dream is alive right now, and we’re heading into the ski season. We’re right in that, so it’s great.
John: That’s so cool to hear, so cool to hear. Yeah, you can’t just drop, I’ve skied in Australia. I don’t imagine Australia, where does skiing happen in Australia?
Barbara: I was shocked when I got to Australia and people were like, “Yeah, we ski here.” There are actually mountains in Australia. Actually parts of Australia are quite cold, and it does snow. Sometimes you can get huge snow. Now it’s not big mountain skiing like what you get in Colorado and places — or Europe, but it’s pretty fun. It’s great for a weekend. Or if you’ve got kids, for a week, it’s amazing. Yeah, we went many times to Thredbo. Down near Melbourne, there’s quite a lot of great ski fields there. You can ski in Australia.
John: That’s awesome. That’s very cool. Who knew?
Barbara: I know.
John: Kangaroos running across — no, I’m just joking.
Barbara: It’s a bit like that actually. It is like that.
John: Australia, you’re so crazy. That’s hilarious. That’s super cool. Do you feel like these individual sports and adventures and things like that have given you a skill that you bring to work at all, through your career?
Barbara: You know what actually, when I was preparing for this podcast, because I did, and I saw your questions around that; and actually was great because it got me thinking about whether it has impacted my work. It was something I hadn’t thought very deeply about before. Because now I’m leading — I mean, The Virtual Hub, we’ve got 150 staff, and I have found myself leading large teams and mentoring our leadership team and doing all these kind of team-based things. I have to think about this and go, gosh, I’ve spent my whole life — I mean, I play tennis. I ski. I love horse-riding. I like swimming, reading. They’re all very individualistic things. They’re not team sports.
So I was thinking about this. How has this helped me to lead this company or to build this? I actually think about it, if you’re on a team, great teams are made up of high-performers. To be a high-performer, in some respects, you actually have to be able to achieve, individualistically, as well as be part of a team. Those who are able to learn how to master something silently on their own by repetition and getting something right and then you bring those people together on a team, you actually can teach others how to be masters of their own skill set and to develop their own skill sets and to — yeah, just mastery.
I think that’s something, I haven’t just done these sports. I have set out to master them. Taking up skiing in my 20s, and these days, I can — I mean, compared to some skiers, I wouldn’t be that great, but I can get to the top of any mountain. I’m a pretty good skier. Same with tennis, I remember learning footwork and getting coaching and really wanting to master the steps of it. I think that’s been pivotal actually, when I think about having to learn so many new things in business.
The Virtual Hub is a company in the Philippines really when I launched it. This is a whole another story, but I’d never been to the Philippines. I had no background in recruiting or HR or outsourcing, for that matter. I came from the investment banking world. I had to learn a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff I learned by accident. Mastering it quickly was very important.
I do have a sense of going at something until I get it, and I think that those sports definitely helped. Because skiing can be quite frustrating, so is tennis, so is horse-riding. They’re not things that you’re going to step into, and within a week be amazing at. They take time. They take 20 years actually of — surfing is the same. It’s like impossible.
John: Yeah, exactly, and golf and a lot of those individuals sports. There’s so much great nuggets that you just dropped in such a short amount of time. One is, especially that, compared to other skiers, but who cares? You’re in your own lane. I think that that’s something that gets in our way of, you enjoy skiing. That’s it. Are you good at it? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares? I’m sure, in your case, very good.
Barbara: Yeah, I think as well, on that point actually that you just made, which is worth highlighting, when you’re in an individualistic sport, yes, there are competitors, but you’re focused on your own game. You’re competing with yourself. It teaches you, in business, yes, you need to watch the competitors in business, but I’ve always been of the view that if you spend all your time looking at how good everyone else is, well, your business will be rubbish. So I don’t really look at others. I go, you know what, I just watch for the nuances and watch for the mistakes and try to tweak and evolve and practice and all that sort of thing. I honestly think, yeah, those sports have helped me to hone that skill. That’s been very pivotal in my journey.
John: That’s such a great example. At the very least, it humanizes you. Coworkers have something to talk to you about besides just the work. Hey, how was the last ski trip? Hey, I saw the pictures on social media about you, whatever. Those sort of things make you, especially as a CEO —
Barbara: I think we need it too. Like you were talking about, to lead large teams and especially in the environment of this pandemic, we’ve all come through and everything; it’s really important to be able to get away and reach back to source, of your own source, inner thing that you get when you go skiing and stuff like that, to be able to get away. Because just going down to the kitchen and having a coffee is not stepping away. You need to actually get out, get out of your head and into your body, kind of thing. I do a lot of yoga as well. That’s also been, again, a singular type of mastery sport, if you want to put it that way.
John: It totally is, yeah. No, and I love all of that.
Barbara: It’s hard.
John: Yeah. No, it is hard. That’s for sure.
Barbara: It’s very hard.
John: Yeah, and I love how it’s something you’ve never really thought about until preparing to come on here. It’s one of those things that that’s what’s so cool about the What’s Your “And”? message is that we’re doing it subconsciously. Once you point it out, it’s like, wow, it makes such an impact on so many different areas of my life that I didn’t even realize.
Barbara: Yeah, even talking about this now. I’m like, there are days where I think, oh my God, I have so much work to do. I really — I just need to focus on work. I’ve got a great private yoga teacher, and she might — the reason I get her to come to my house is because I can’t cancel on her. I’m like, dammit, I’ve got this yoga thing. The same with skiing, I’ll go up the mountain and be like, I shouldn’t be going today, too much work. Then I’ll get up the mountain. I’ll ski for two hours. I’ll come down, and I’m on fire. My ideas, the vision, my whole energy system has changed. It’s just vitally important that we give into it actually, give into it and do it.
John: I love that, give into it. Yeah, because work is always going to be there, and those passions are easy to put on the back burner, but they’re always going to be knocking. They’re always in your head. So, yeah, give in and let it rip. I love that.
Barbara: Totally, yeah, give in and let it rip. That’s going to be my new mantra for this year, just give in and let it rip. I love it.
John: Exactly. 2021, give in and let it rip. What else could happen?
Barbara: I know.
John: That’s super cool. So is it something that you do talk about at work, or that’s even back in your investment banking days or things like that? Was talking about outside-of-work interests something you did?
Barbara: Yeah, you always do. I mean, it depends. These days, I probably don’t talk — I talk about yoga a bit. I’m in an interesting environment right now because the company is in the Philippines. I’m the only one actually who’s remote, which is really interesting. It’s like, they’ve all got the party going on in the Philippines, and I’m on my own. I live in a totally different country.
If I do scuba diving, which I used to do when I was in my 20s, don’t anymore, but that’s probably a topic I could talk to a lot of our team about. They’re big into diving over there because the dive sites are amazing, and lots of yoga. Yeah, lots of guys doing sports and stuff. In my old corporate career, yeah, I would have talked about it a lot. Lots people were skiing and doing lots of cool stuff.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. That is a good point that you brought up about that’s what they’re doing, but you can relate. It’s asking them about those dives and things like that, and that will just light them up. Wow, the CEO is asking about something that I truly love, above and beyond the work.
Barbara: You just hit on something that I’ve wanted to do for so long, to get to know each and every single person in the company. What is their “And”? Actually, what’s their “And”? Then COVID hit, and we just, oh, that sort of stuff has gone out the window, but I need to come back to that.
John: Yeah, especially now and, like you said, make sure that they’re doing it. Because, like you said, going downstairs to get coffee or tea is not getting away from the work. What lights them up? What’s going to make them come back on fire? Yeah, because there’s nothing worse than riding up on a chairlift and then riding back down on the chairlift. You have to ski it. You can’t ride back down.
Barbara: Yeah, yeah.
John: Yeah, it’s like the guy that — the person that fell and one ski fell off. Now they have to walk while holding their other ski because the other one just zoomed down the mountain.
Barbara: Just sit down, slide. That’s it.
John: There you go. There you go. Yeah, that’s why I snowboard because then they’re stuck. They’re not coming off.
Barbara: Oh, yeah. That’s right. You know what, I was planning to learn snowboarding this year. So, you’re a snowboarder. I’m a skier. I was like, I’m going to learn snowboarding. Then I had one season here, because I arrived a year ago, and I was like, I’m not learning snowboarding because I just don’t have the patience now. I just want to enjoy myself. Because the minute I take up a new thing, I’m going to try and master that. I’m going to spend a week on my ass, basically, with probably broken wrists or something.
John: For sure. I, luckily, skied as a kid, but it was in the Midwest of the US, which is probably similar to Australia where it’s more hills than mountains. Then I had a long period in between where I didn’t at all. I skateboarded some in junior high and stuff. So that’s where the snowboarding was more natural. I was just starting from scratch a couple years ago when I moved to Colorado. That made it easier. Where I could see, if you’re a skier, to go to snowboard, that’s weird. Yeah, it’s totally different.
Barbara: Yeah, I’d like to. My friends are snowboarders, but doesn’t matter, just going to do powder skiing instead.
John: There you go. There you go. No, that’s fantastic. How much do you feel like it’s on the organization, a little bit going back to you finding out people’s “ands”, how much do you think it’s on the organization to create that as the norm? Versus, how much is it on the individual to maybe just start with a small circle of who they work with?
Barbara: You know what, I’ve always had this philosophy kind of buried that I knew, about culture and about building cultures in companies, that it’s got to be like a family. You have to care about the people, not just — there’s profit and all that, but you have to deeply care about your people.
When COVID and this pandemic and everything that we’ve come through in the last year, came along, I sort of realized how much deeper that thought needs to go, in that, I think as companies, we almost have a responsibility to help the whole person develop and not just the career.
We’re big into training, learning and development at The Virtual Hub. We’ve got our own Training Department that we accidentally got known. We started doing really well with training. We were training VAs in digital marketing. That’s what we were doing in the early days. Now we’ve sort of developed this out into a learning and development platform where my vision is to say, well, what about teaching people about managing their own finances or dealing with their own subconscious beliefs or whatever else they may want to discover about themselves
As a company, I just feel, these days, it’s important for people to be to work in a place that honors their wellness, their dreams, what are their dreams, their personal development that has nothing to do with what it is that you do as a company, but actually, it leads to happier people. It leads to a culture that people are aligned with, and they don’t want to leave them. So you get longevity of people as well.
I’m really playing with this idea now, and it’s just come to fruition even more, through COVID. COVID has been a good thing in that way, in that I’ve gone, hmm, that’s interesting. We need to help people. We’re in a people business, actually. So, yeah, I’m going further into that philosophy now.
John: I love that. I love that so much. That’s so great. Really, every business is a people business. Yours is exponentially so, but every company, it’s still human-to-human interaction, whether it’s colleagues or to clients or to customers. Those are humans on the other side. The more that I’ve interviewed and researched and even my own experience, if people have an outside-of-work life that’s chaos, they’re inside-of-work is never going to be good.
Barbara: No, it’s chaos, yeah, total chaos. You can’t help everyone. That’s the other problem is you can’t save everyone. Actually, I heard, if you know Russell Brunson from ClickFunnels.
John: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Barbara: I saw him speak at one of those — I’ve never been to one of the conferences, but I saw this video where he was asked, what about all the people who buy your software and they never make it, kind of thing. He was talking about this speech he had heard, I’m probably totally misrepresenting this, but the concept was, I think it was about rescue helicopters. When they’re going into big seas for this — a boat has gone over and these people have gone over. Only a certain amount of people are going to fit in the helicopter. How do you choose who you’re going to save? The answer was, we can only save those that swim towards us. I thought to myself, bingo.
We’ve actually changed our entire recruitment process to say, right, when we’re recruiting people, if they have the skills, that’s great; but we need to figure out, are they aligned with our core values? Our company purpose is to unlock dreams for both our employees and our clients. That’s the purpose that we set out for. We’re like, first of all, do our core values resonate with them? Second of all, do they have a dream that we have the ability to unlock for them? Or are we just on different pages, and therefore they’re going to unlock our company dream of growing and all that sort of thing, and our clients, et cetera.
It’s this whole thing of, if we can recruit people in the first place, that we are going to swim towards us, in that way, then we can do loads with that person. We’re not actually hiring broken people. We’re trying to hire people that genuinely are swimming towards us and have that sense of personal mastery that we can refine. I hope that makes sense. I was formulating that thought as I was talking.
John: It makes total sense. It’s also, the technical skills are important, but they’re not the end-all-be-all because everyone applying for that job has those technical skills.
Barbara: Or they can be coached. A lot of technical skills can be coached actually.
John: There you go, even that. Yeah.
Barbara: You can’t teach enthusiasm.
John: Right. That’s exactly right.
Barbara: You can’t teach certain things, so you have to hire for it. My philosophy has always been, you give me a great person, that’s a glass-half-full person who is smart enough and loves what it is that we do and is enthusiastic about life in general; I can teach them anything. It’s just, you need that fundamental base.
John: I love that. That’s awesome. I love how you’re nurturing the whole person and how can we better serve them, training for life, beyond just the technical skills of the work that happens here. That’s so fantastic. That’s awesome. Just imagine if investment banking companies did that.
Barbara: If every company did that.
John: Yeah, or if every company, then it would be just a great place to be, everywhere. That would be super awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that has a hobby that they’re like, it has nothing to do with my job and no one’s going to care?
Barbara: Look, I’ve fallen into so many times where I haven’t pursued hobbies, and I’ve worked, worked, worked. We’ve all done it. You think, I’m too busy, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I spent years doing that. Don’t do that. Go and, what was it you said, get out there and let it —
John: Let it rip.
Barbara: Whatever it is.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Barbara: Obviously, some people can get addicted and not do any work, but use it to fuel better work. Your energy fields will open up. All your chakras will open up. Everything will be lighter. You’ll come back. You’ll solve problems while you’re on the mountain or while you’re out gardening or whatever it is that is your thing. You have to pursue it. It’s so important for your own success in every part of your life, not just personal life, but business as well.
John: That’s so perfect. I love that. That’s awesome. Well, it’s only fair, before I wrap this up, that I turned the tables because I so rudely peppered you with questions in the beginning. So, this is the first episode of The Barbara Turley podcast. Welcome, everyone. Thanks for having me on as your first guest. I appreciate it, Barbara. You didn’t really have a choice. I just made it my own. Did you have any questions for me?
Barbara: I do.
Barbara: Groomed or powder.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, okay.
Barbara: On-piste or off-piste? I think I know the answer but.
John: I don’t know. Powder’s always fun. You just get to carve your own way. That’s always fun. Yeah, make your own path, which I guess I’ve done accidentally in life. There you go.
John: Oh, books or podcasts. I’m a books guy. Yeah, I really don’t listen to too many podcasts, ironically enough, so, yeah, books, in the paperback or hardcover in my handbooks.
Barbara: Oh, really? Yeah.
John: I do agree with your Kindle. You can carry the whole library with you wherever you are, which is always handy, but I guess if I had my druthers, I guess I would pick holding it in my hand.
Barbara: I have two very young children. I have a four-year-old and one-year-old. If I didn’t have those, I’d probably be with you on that. Since I have those, the podcast, I can only get half-an-hour podcast on double time.
John: Exactly, exactly. Squeeze it all in. Well, this has been so much fun, Barbara, happy to be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks so much.
Barbara: Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Barbara in action or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there, and also buy the book. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing in iTunes or whatever app you use, and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Bill is a Consultant & Traveler
Bill Penczak, CEO of MICA Ventures, returns to the podcast to talk about his most recent trips, starting his own consulting firm right before the pandemic began, the status of the accounting professional world, and much more!
• Recent trips
• How the pandemic affected his value of relationships
• Starting his firm in March 2020
• A shift of focus towards making connections
• You do a disservice to everyone if you do not bring your authentic self
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Photos of Bill’s Travels
(click to enlarge)
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Welcome to Episode 346 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. Happy New Year. We made it to 2021, everybody. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited, my book is out. If you didn’t get one for the holidays, you can get one now on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. If you’re interested in buying 25 or more, maybe for your clients or your team, there’s a form at whatsyourand.com for you to get discounted pricing from my publisher. It’s the least I can do to hook you up with that. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you so, so much for those.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Bill Penczak. He’s the founder and Chief Insights Officer at MICA Ventures in Houston, Texas, and now he’s with me here today. Bill, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Bill: Great seeing you again, John.
John: Yeah, this is going to be awesome.
Bill: You’re looking younger than ever.
John: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Everyone listening, just take his word for it because he’s a genuine liar. That’s what’s happening right here. No, but you’re too kind, too kind. I have the rapid-fire questions, things I should have probably asked you first time and before we’ve hung out before but never asked, so here we go, just seven. If you had to pick, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Bill: Harry Potter, never got into Game of Thrones.
John: I’ve never seen one episode at all.
Bill: You just look at the clips with the nudity in it, online.
John: I didn’t even know there was that. Okay, I need to get outside more. How about, this is a tricky one, brownie or ice cream?
Bill: Oh, God. Ice cream.
John: Okay. All right.
Bill: Although, in the past couple of months, I realized that my weight has gained a little bit, so I’ve cut out all the ice cream a little bit and actually made a difference.
John: Yeah, right. Sad but true. It’s like, ah, yeah. No, I hear you. What is a typical breakfast?
Bill: Pretty much the same thing every day, bowl cereal with some fruit in it, a little bit of yogurt and a glass of orange juice and half an English muffin.
John: Wow, healthy, man. I like that. All right. When you travel, planes, trains or automobiles.
Bill: Well, we like to travel when you can, overseas or to faraway places so, generally, by plane. Although we’ve done a couple of really cool train trips in the past, like in New Zealand. We went across their version of the Alps.
John: Cool. Now that is — yeah, it’s true because in the US, trains, unless you’re in the northeast, trains aren’t really used. When you go to Europe and then you can ride a train, it’s really novel. Plus, they’re cool, and they’re fast, and they’re really clean and sharp. It’s just neat. How about when it comes to books, Kindle real book or audio book?
Bill: Real book, that way, and I know you can do this in Kindle, but that way, I can make notes. I dog-ear pages, go back and look at things later on. Yeah, I’m kind of a provincial person about that.
John: Yeah. No, I agree on that. I agree on that. This one’s tricky too, rain or snow.
Bill: In the next couple of years, we’re going to move up to the Pacific Northwest, so I better say rain.
John: Okay. Right.
Bill: It’s going to be part of the formula, I think.
John: Okay. Yeah, definitely. I hate rain so much. I really do. I don’t know why. I just… All right, last one, last one, maybe the most important one ever. Toilet paper roll, over or under.
Bill: Well, this is a big controversy in our household. So, depending on who’s loading the roll, it goes one way or the other. I’m an over. My wife is an under.
John: Oh, really? Okay. All right. Still house divided.
Bill: Yeah. We’re not super pedantic about it, but just you can tell who did it by looking which way it’s rolling.
John: Attention to detail. Come on now. So, last time you were on episode 170. You were talking about traveling. I remember seeing pictures of you wearing, when it was the Green Apple podcast, the shirt in Portugal, which was awesome. It was so fun hearing those stories. Since then, have you been able to do some travel in the last couple of years, pre-March 2020?
Bill: Yeah, a little bit. We went to Prague for Thanksgiving last year. It just seems like eons ago. A couple little trips I did. I did a fishing trip to New Mexico for a couple of days over the Fourth of July weekend. We went up to Colorado in March for a quick little trip.
Bill: We went to Seattle in the summertime. It was cool because we used to live there, and we’ve got about five or six couple friends that we got to socially distance and see all at once, up there.
John: Oh, that’s neat, like in a cul-de-sac sort of a thing or whatever.
Bill: The couple that hosted us has a big backyard, and we sat apart. It was really good because some of these people, it’s spend 17 years since we’ve lived there, and while we stayed in touch with a lot of the people, not as much as you do when you live there. So, we’ll pick up those conversations where we left them off, and it’s really cool to have that kind of bond.
John: That’s cool.
Bill: I’m not too philosophical about everything but, I think, over the past year, recognizing the value of that, either the personal relationships that you have or the business contacts that you have, has become more important to me, I guess.
Starting a consulting firm, the first week of March before everything hit the fan, I always say to clients, “I started this in March, so you can automatically and rightfully question my business sense. Even though that’s what you’re paying me to do, you can question my business sense.” I decided — I’ll tell the short version — decided that I want to do this in January, set up my articles of incorporation, built a website, left the firm in March, and two weeks later, everything shut down.
In the interim and during that process, realizing that, one, I’ve got a lot of professional friends and friend friends that were very kind and helpful. Two of my clients, for example, came about because people that I used to work with, reached out to me and said, hey, did you know So-and-So is looking for such-and-such, a couple of times, and I wind up getting two clients out of that. There was a book a couple years ago, a guy named Keith Ferrazzi wrote Never Eat Alone.
John: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Bill: He wrote a follow onto that called, Who’s Got Your Back. It’s a little bit esoteric, but it’s basically about paying it forward. Not doing it for mercenary reasons, necessarily, but just because, one, it’s just the right thing to do in the universe, but also, from a professional standpoint, getting to be known as the person that can connect or knows a lot of people enough and doesn’t always have their interest in mind, has gotten more altruistic.
I kind of pooh-poohed it when I first read it, when it first came out. Now, I think I’ve been able to benefit from that. I’ve got a networking group, and I’ve probably given more leads than I’ve gotten out of it. That’s okay because I think we’re in the long haul. So with —
John: I don’t know anything about COVID. Knock yourself out.
Bill: It seems like people are just slowing down just a bit and trying to connect with what’s important to them, whether it’s from a professional standpoint, whether it’s a personal standpoint, families and all that. That may be one of the good byproducts out of all this stuff.
John: Yeah, and I would think that those connections that you had, those people that do have your back, are people that, they’re not just because they know what you do professionally, they actually know who you are, and you know who they are. There’s a genuine interest in them as a person and in their “And”. You know these other dimensions to them, not just, oh, I know, So-and-So. They’re really good at XYZ technical thing. Because there’s a lot of people that are good at those technical things.
It is cool to see how this past nine months have shown that, the What’s Your “And”? message, it just ripped the Band-Aid off of this because we’ve been in each other’s homes now. We’ve seen, you know, hey, what’s your dog’s name? What’s your cat’s name? Hey, kids are running around, Amazon deliveries are coming, whatever. It’s just chaos. You can’t put on this facade of, I’ve got everything together. I’m super professional person. No, I don’t even know what the hell’s going on right now.
Bill: Have you noticed that the dress code has been more liberal in the lockdown?
Bill: People might wear a buttoned up shirt. A guy might wear a buttoned up shirt in the beginning. Now, it’s like, everyone is in t-shirts. Read something that said 40% of women now that are on Zoom calls, either don’t put on makeup or just leave their camera off, for whatever reason. It’s so funny. Think about all of what we thought was normal and get dressed up and wear a jacket and tie or you had to wear pants. I’m wearing pants, I promise.
John: Not pajama pants anyway.
Bill: Or you can’t work from home. All that’s been blown out. It’d be interesting to see, like in the CPA world, I bet you charge hours are as good as, if not better than they were because people aren’t commuting. They’re not driving to client places. The amount of hours that we’re putting in is probably the same or if not more, but it doesn’t feel that way.
John: Or even more importantly, just the output is there. Whether the hours aren’t, the output’s there. Yeah, it certainly has just shattered what we thought was important and what was “professional”. That’s what the What’s Your “And”? is all about. What you thought was professional, it doesn’t matter, to a degree. You could still get the work done. As long as you’re not inhibiting someone else’s ability to do their job, then talk about your outside-of-work interests and things that you do and who you are as a person. This is normal.
Now, we’ve all seen that human side to each of us. I hope that when things start to go back to the office, we don’t act like, I didn’t see your dog, or I didn’t see you on a Wednesday at an 8 am meeting, just not showered or in a t-shirt. We’re humans, and we’re regular people. Embrace that. Hey, that picture that was on your wall, where’s that from? That’s cool, type of thing.
Bill: I’ve got an old record player, an old phonograph that is usually behind me if I’m sitting in my study. People always ask about it. It goes back to the travel thing that we bought it in Athens. I’ll tell you a quick sidebar story. I used to travel to South America for work and always went to the San Telmo Fair in Buenos Aires. It’s crazy. When you can buy a steak dinner for 12 bucks.
My wife and I and the kids were on a cruise. We stopped in Athens and went to Plaka and went to some of the old antique stores and found this record player. It was like 120 euros. I was like, great, we’re going to buy it. My wife looks at me, like, you’re crazy. You’re going to take this back on a cruise ship. I said, I’ve got two teenage boys. They’re going to help me with it. So, we gave the guy 20 euros to wrap it up and as a deposit. We come back 20 minutes later. He gives us two boxes. My wife said, he’s probably put bricks in it, and we’re going to find out when we get back in Houston. We’ll see.
So, we’re leaving. All of a sudden, there’s a commotion behind us, and this shopkeeper, holding the handle that twists and makes it actually work, because we’d forgot to pack it. So, well, it’s probably not a thing of bricks. We can breeze through customs and all that. I tell my wife, I said, I’ve got more stories out of this thing. Especially, like you said, it’s at the background and might see it, and it’s made a lot of cool connection stories of personal connections. Really, the question is going to be, will people put their veil back on again, once we get into the corporate world, and will that truism go away?
John: I hope not because it’s almost one of those where you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. You can’t unsee what you’ve seen, and that’s what I’m pushing for. Everybody listening, wherever they work, don’t let it go back. Ask about those things. When people ask you about that record player, that’s awesome. You light up. Because I remember, we’ve talked on webcams before, and I’ve asked you about it. I could see you light up. You get animated, and you’re excited about, that’s there because I want to talk about it. It brings me joy, seeing it.
Bill: Mostly just so I can say to my wife, I told you so.
John: Pretty much. Pretty much. You just wait one April 1st, she’s going to replace it with a stack of bricks, and then you’re going to come. You’d be like, what?! April Fool’s. That’s awesome. Yeah, I agree, I hope it doesn’t. I feel like, because everyone’s been a part of it, you can’t Wizard of Oz this. You can’t just pull the veil over everyone’s eyes on this. Even if you’re the leader of a small team, just keep it going because — I mean, we’re human. We want to be in person again. It’s just human nature, when it’s safe or what have you, but to not act like we’ve seen all that, it’s going to be a real disservice if that does happen. As long as I’m around, there will be people that don’t want to do that, hopefully.
Bill: Some older person that I was talking to, recently said, “Well, the millennials have won.” What do you mean by that? Well, there’s no dress code anymore, and we’re all working from home.
John: No, it’s not millennials at all. It’s humans. Humans have won. That’s crazy. Yeah, that person is —
Bill: That person is kind of old.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They’re just angry that they didn’t have the guts to say something when they were younger. That’s the thing is, this isn’t even a generational thing. The What’s Your “And”? message and just caring about people, that has nothing to do with generations at all. If anything, it bridges the gap between the generations. Because if you have somebody that’s 60 years old, about to retire, and you have someone that’s 22 that just got out of college, they don’t have a whole lot in common, but all of a sudden, you find out that they both like to ballroom dance, or they both like to paint, or they’re both huge history buffs, or they’re both whatever. All of a sudden, now they have a massive connection, and that bridges that gap between the two. It’s something that you shouldn’t pooh-pooh, I guess, because it definitely brings you together.
Bill: I just read a book that was published probably 10 or 15 years ago by Daniel Pink. It’s about, I can’t remember the right title of it, but it’s about the power of right-brainedness. I think a lot of the listeners here are probably, in the CPA world, probably tend to be on the left brain side. Some of the things you said resonated, as I’m thinking about the points that he said in the book about things like empathy and creativity and so forth, that that makes us humans. Even in a business sense, that makes us better business people.
John: Yeah. No, it totally does. It totally does. I think it was called, The Whole New Mind. It totally does. These other dimensions to who we are, they make us better. All the interviews that I’ve done on this podcast, it’s, does that hobby translate at all to work? It does every single time. At the bare minimum, that humanizes you, and lets people know what you’re excited about.
Oftentimes, there’s a skill that translates over a mindset that comes over. It’s definitely important that not only people have them, but that you keep them and then that organizations find out what those are and care about them. If you’re a leader of a group or a whole company, either way, know what light your people up.
Bill: It’s funny, I just finished a project for a client, a CPA firm client. We redid their mission, vision and values; and one of the principles is creativity.
Bill: When we’re doing the focus groups, somebody said, “Creative accounting, you can’t say that.” The managing partner is a very down-to-earth but also, in like a Deepak Chopra way, kind of a spiritual guy. He’s actually teaching a class starting next month, about the soul of leadership.
The whole idea of creativity within the CPA world, on the surface, if you don’t think about it very much, is like, oh, my God, we can’t say that. If you think about it, we are charged with solving problems for clients. While on the tax side and on the audit side, there’s a prescription that you have to follow, typically, looking for different ways of thinking about things brings in that creativity. I think, oh, that idea helps fuel that.
If you try to isolate yourself as, I’m only going to be this person from nine to five, I can be that other person when I’m not; you’re cheating yourself. You’re really doing everybody a disservice by doing that.
John: Yeah, I love that. I love that so much. Even if you’re in law or engineering or banking, or any of these professional jobs, it’s the same, where people frown upon creativity. No, no, that’s where the magic is. It’s actually your differentiator. It’s creativity in how you get there. What’s the journey that you take? Or is there a better way?
You could use innovation, if you want to use that word. It’s the same thing. You’re doing things differently than what they were done before. That’s creative. I love that so much, man. That’s awesome. What a great takeaway for everybody listening right there as well. You’re just doing a huge disservice if you’re not bringing these other dimensions to who you are to work. That’s awesome.
Well, before I wrap this up, Bill, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid-fire question me, since I so rudely started the year out, firing away at you. Happy New Year, and by the way, here are seven questions. So, it’s the first episode of The Phil Penczak podcast, everybody. Thanks for having me on. I’m all yours.
Bill: Okay, so these are not as rapid as maybe as you want them, but you said a couple of things during the conversation I want to explore. Clearly, you’re a very social person, and you get energy from hanging around other people, talking in front of groups and all of that. How have you been able to focus your energy lately, in a positive way?
John: I’m a lot more introverted than you would think. When I speak, it is exhausting because I’m giving a little piece of me to every single person that’s in the audience. That is exhausting. Doing it remotely, is emotionally and mentally — it’s just the worst. It is the worst because I can’t connect.
When I’m in the room, I’ve been onstage over 2,000 times, so I know what’s going on within a millisecond of it happening. It’s like, boom, boom, I know. When it’s remote like this, I can’t. I don’t have my finger on the pulse all the time of what’s happening. I can see in the chat what’s happening, but not always, so I can’t connect. Then when it’s over, it’s just like, bloop, black screen. Okay. I don’t know, but if anybody has any questions, or was that good? All of a sudden, it’s just, okay, it’s over.
Bill: Movie’s over.
John: Yeah, and it’s brutal. It’s brutal brutal. So, I’m a lot more introverted than you would think. When I’m on stage, speaking to a conference, I look at that audience as one-to-one. I don’t look at it as 500 people or whatever it is. I look at it as one-to-one. So, it’s been okay for me. It’s just doing the remote speaking is brutal.
I do enjoy the humans being in the same room together. Yeah, it’s been hard. It really has. I don’t think I answered your question, but I guess I’m making the best out of what I can. Doing the podcast is always, always, always fun, just hearing people’s stories and talking to them about that. It’s always good too.
Bill: Okay, second slow question is, and maybe this is a byproduct of being more introspective during all of this, how have you thought differently about people who were influential in your career, over the past year? Have you been more appreciative or picked up things that you hadn’t maybe thought of before?
John: That’s interesting. Yeah, I guess it was cool, like with the book launch, going back through and thinking, like, we were doing this on accident, the sharing What’s Your “And”? Any group that I was in or especially leading, we were doing that. It wasn’t called “What’s Your “And”? It wasn’t — but we were doing it.
It was fun to reach back out to people that I had worked with, in my corporate days, and just say, “Hey, I wrote a book. I think it’s going to resonate a lot with what we did back in the day, on accident. Now it has a name.” So, it’s been cool to hear their stories and what they remember about me. I mean, it was years ago.
It has been neat to, just with the book launch, see how much people do remember. People are rooting for each other. They really are. We all want each other to do well and be happy and succeed. It is cool to see that, for sure.
Bill: What about, did you have a mentor earlier in your career that you think back on?
John: I did. There was a national partner, Dick Anderson, with PwC, out of the Chicago office, and I was fortunate enough to be in a program where I got to shadow him for three or four days.
Bill: Did he know that?
John: No, he didn’t know that at all. I’m in your bushes. What’s going on? Yeah, it was fantastic. That’s how I ended up being selected to be on the largest financial services client that PwC had, for a long time. That was actually the last project I was — I mean, it was for two years. It was an ongoing thing.
He’s retired now, so it’s harder to get in touch with him. I’ve tried to reach out, but it hasn’t worked. Otherwise, I was influenced by a variety of people. I didn’t have one mentor that I — which is probably why I’m doing this now. No one was really willing to take responsibility.
Bill: No one was willing to take responsibility for you, yeah.
John: Exactly. They’re like, yeah, go talk to So-and-So about that. All right. But it has been cool just to connect with, not only managers, but also people that were my peers, people that reported to me. It’s been cool to just circle back on that, thanks to LinkedIn and whatever. That’s the only good use for social media, I think, is something like that.
Bill: I got to do that with an old boss of mine. He was my boss about eight or 10 years ago. He’s since retired as well. We used to spend all our time together. His office is mine and hours and hours and hours together. He’s retired, and he’s got other things that he’s doing.
He was so appreciative of the fact that I reached out to him. Then, too, he was so touched that I even did, to say, it was really fun working — he was a pain in the ass sometimes, I learned so much. I wouldn’t be here where I am today had it not been for you. That kind of connection thing is really, is special to me.
John: Yeah. No, it totally is. It totally is. It’s just letting people know that, hey, you know what? I remember you. I care about you. It definitely matters. I feel like 2020, as a whole, really brought that out in people, for the most part. It’s been cool to see. That’s for sure, man. That’s for sure. It’s been cool. It’s been great to catch up with you.
Bill: Yeah, it was great talking to you as well.
John: Thanks so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? and part of the book launch and all that. Thanks, Bill.
Bill: Sure, my pleasure. Happy New Year.
John: Happy New Year, exactly, and everybody listening. If you’d like to see some pictures of Bill from his travels or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to pick up the book.
Sara is a Bookkeeper & Artist
Sara Gibb, owner of Flow Works Bookkeeping & Consulting, talks about her passion for art and why she felt it was better suited as a hobby rather than a profession! She also talks about how her art translates into her work as a bookkeeper and how it helps build relationships with clients!
• Getting into art
• Why she left her career in art
• Some of her favorite works as an artist
• How her art translates towards her bookkeeping
• Talking to clients about her art
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Sara’s Works of Art
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 345 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the podcast, you can go even deeper into the research with my book. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. Honestly, I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and then writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Sara Gibb. She’s the owner of Flow Works Bookkeeping and Consulting in Chemainus which is on Vancouver Island, Canada, and now she’s with me here today. Sara, thanks so much for taking time to be on What’s Your “And”?
Sara: Thanks, John. I’m really happy to be here.
John: No, this is going to be great. We’ve met in person when I spoke at some conferences, which was really cool, finally got you on, so I’m excited.
Sara: I really like the song, what is it, the one, life in a cubicle or whatever.
John: Oh, yeah, I Work in a Cubicle.
Sara: I Work in a Cubicle. I just love that song.
John: The One Direction parody. Well, thank you. Yeah, that was super fun to shoot the video for it too. That’s awesome. Well, I have some rapid-fire questions here to get to know Sara on a new level here. Here we go. I’ll ask you, do you have a favorite Disney character?
Sara: Yes, I like the little guinea pig, Norman, off of Secret Life of Pets. I actually, in my office, my husband has bought me little stuffies that stay in my office.
John: That’s awesome. That’s very cool.
Sara: That’s very unique.
John: That is. Yeah, I haven’t had that one yet. That’s a good one, though. How about a favorite color?
John: Pink. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: That’s a good one too, yeah. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Sara: Neither. I like the word find.
John: Oh, word find, that works too. Okay, okay. There you go. Absolutely, that works, absolutely. How about chocolate or vanilla?
Sara: Depends on the mood. Probably I’ll go chocolate, but I like white chocolate.
John: Oh, okay, all right. There you go. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Sara: I don’t say that I really have a favorite actor or actress. I do have a favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally, from the ‘80s.
John: Oh, that’s a great movie, though.
Sara: I love that movie. Watch it over and over all the time.
John: Yeah, absolutely, great movie. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Sara: Night owl, 100% night owl. I get my best work done between 10 and 2 am.
John: Holy cow, that’s really late. That’s almost back to early bird.
Sara: I know. I know. It’s really, it’s the weirdest thing but, yeah.
John: That’s awesome. Well, at least you know. Because most people are sleeping during that time and not achieving peak performance. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Sara: Oh, Star Wars, 100%. I know the whole storyline. I’m a fanatic.
John: Yeah. I haven’t ventured out from the original three just because I’ve heard mixed reviews, and I don’t want to ruin it.
Sara: It’s hit and miss. Some of them are really good, and some of them are just really bad.
John: Yeah, exactly. How about your computer, PC or a Mac?
Sara: It’s PC, but I also have an iPad too, and an iPhone, so I don’t know.
John: Okay, so, a little bit of both.
Sara: A little bit of both.
John: I’m a huge ice cream junkie. Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
Sara: Moose Tracks. I don’t know if that’s a Canadian thing but —
John: It is definitely not it, and it is so good.
Sara: Rum and raisin is another one.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of, how many more chunks of things can we get in? I want my bite to have the most calories possible. Yeah, I love it. Oh, here’s one somebody asked me a little bit ago. I thought it was great, so I’m going to ask you. Socks or shoes.
Sara: Both. I wear slippers all day long with socks on them, and I’m terrible for always stealing my husband’s socks in the winter.
John: Oh, yeah.
Sara: Because they’re way more comfy.
John: That’s an argument starter right there. That’s tough. How about, since you have the bookkeeping background, balance sheet or income statement?
Sara: Income statement.
John: Okay. More oceans or mountains.
Sara: I have the best of both worlds, so I say both. I enjoy both, thoroughly. Living on the island, we’re surrounded by an ocean, and we’ve got tons of mountains and hiking around here. It’s beautiful.
John: That’s awesome. Very cool. How about a favorite sports team?
Sara: I’m just going to go with Vancouver Canucks. I don’t watch a whole lot of sports, but I do cheer for them at time.
John: Sure. Yeah, yeah, it’s like a national thing. You have to.
Sara: Yeah, you have to. You have to.
John: Three more. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Yeah, that’s mine, too. Why is yours?
Sara: I don’t know. It’s just always been a lucky number for me.
John: Okay. How about books, Kindle, real books or audio?
Sara: Real books. I’m a huge fan of — my husband hates whenever we go out shopping, and I want to go to Chapters because it always means that I’m going to be in there for an hour, and he’s sitting at Starbucks with his latte waiting for me. Because I like to open the books and read a couple pages. I’ve got a big stack in my arms that I’m packing with me. He’s like, how are you going to read all these books with your little time?
John: From 10 to 2.
Sara: That’s right, yeah.
John: Very cool. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Sara: You’re going to laugh at this, but it’s my Instant Pot.
John: No, that sounds — okay, all right. When did you get one?
Sara: I got one — I’ve had it for about two years. I have a couple other accessories like an Instant Pot air fryer and stuff, but I just love my Instant Pot because I can make dinner in like 30 minutes in one pot.
John: Right? Literally in one pot, all of it, just like a stew or —
Sara: Everything in one pot. It’s like the greatest invention ever. I make homemade yogurt. I make homemade broth. You just set it, and you can go work. Leave it and let it do its thing.
John: That’s awesome, very cool. I love it, such a great answer, but we’re going to talk art. How did art start for you? Is it something, as a kid, that you just kept going with or something that you came back to, later in life?
Sara: Well, I’ve always loved art as a child, art, photography, and those kinds of things. My story is a little bit different as, when I graduated from high school, I actually went to do a two-year visual arts degree and then also another degree in photography. It was my goal at the time that I wanted to do something in art and be creative and be a photographer and do all those kinds of things. I went to school, and I got the certificates and the training and all that kind of stuff.
Sara: Then I went out in the real world, and I managed a photography studio, a children’s photography studio, loved kids. When I actually got into doing it as a career, I did find it stressful, and it sucked the creativity out of me. I then ended up falling into bookkeeping, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 15 years. I went back to school, got retrained, and doing that, I opened my own business.
Now I find myself, I’m back to painting in the evenings and creating art and doing photography. It’s very much a passion of mine still. I just love that there’s nothing, career-wise, riding on. It’s just something that I can do. At the end of the day, I can open up my painting kit. I can sit in the kitchen. I can paint something, and I can just shut my mind off completely. That’s the one thing that I can do that can shut my mind off completely is painting.
John: It is a huge thing, and why I’m very explicit to people that taking that hobby or passion and trying to make it your job is something that I explicitly say, don’t do, just because it’s so hard to make a living at it. Also, when it becomes your job, a lot of that passion isn’t there all the time, but you have to do it because you have to pay the rent. You have to put food on the table. So, it’s very, very hard to make that leap. It’s cool to hear that you did do it for a while. Now, it’s a hobby, but you’re able to turn to it when you want to, then it lights you up still. I think that’s really, really cool.
Sara: It’s very stress-relieving and relaxing, I should say. It’s something that — my daughter enjoys art and creating as well. It’s something that I can do with her and connect with her too. We both enjoy painting, in that kind of sense, and creating. It’s fun. We’ve done some family projects, like the hands and that kind of thing and that kind of stuff. I’ve done some art where all of us, the family, have participated in and stuff like that. I think that those kind of creations are fun. It’s a piece of each of us.
John: Right, exactly, and at the end of the day, it’s not for someone to buy or for someone to judge. It’s because you enjoy it. That’s what’s so powerful about it, is I don’t care if you think it’s good or not. I like it.
Sara: That’s right.
John: That’s very cool. So, from your art, photography days, over the years, is there something that you’ve created or done that you’re really excited about or proud of, that’s like some of your more favorite pieces?
Sara: Yeah, I’ve created some stuff in college that I really like. I really enjoy charcoal drawing with the live people that come and pose. It’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s very freeing, the charcoal drawing, that kind of thing. I have some of those. A lot of my artwork hangs in my house, to this day, a lot of the stuff. It wasn’t me that — it was my husband who took it and hung it up around the house and felt that it needed to be hung and needed to be seen. I never ever have thought that way. When I create pieces, I always just stuff them in the closet and just leave it. He’s the one that goes around and pulls it out of the closet and hangs it up around the house.
John: That’s cool, though, because why not? Otherwise, you’re going to go buy something from somewhere that’s generic or not as good or whatever. Yeah, that’s awesome. Do you feel like the art, at all, translates over to the bookkeeping?
Sara: I think it does. I think that an artist uses the right side of the brain. Bookkeeping, accounting is more associated with your left side of the brain, which means that I’m constantly always using both sides of my brain. I think that plays a very important role in how I do things and how I deal with them. I’m very meticulous, I guess you could say, with my books, with the things that I work on. There’s nothing better that brings me more joy than a beautiful, balanced statement.
I think it’ll almost look like a work of art, especially when you are doing this huge cleanup job. You pull a balance sheet, and it just looks awful. It’s a mess. There are categories where there shouldn’t be categories. There are things placed where they shouldn’t be placed. The banks are not reconciled. You just take that balance sheet, and you just fix everything. It’s almost like, at the end of the day, it’s like a work of art to you when it’s done. I don’t want nobody else touching it.
John: It’s in the frame, don’t touch it. We put glass on it.
Sara: It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. Don’t touch it.
John: Yeah, get a velvet rope around it, like the Mona Lisa or something.
Sara: That’s right.
John: I can see that for sure. The way that you look at things, that’s the same way. That’s cool to hear. Do clients know about this artistic side of you?
Sara: Yeah, they do. When they come over, they see artwork hanging up. They often ask, “Did you do this? Oh, I didn’t know that you did art.” It brings the funny story and how I did art and how I got into it. Because a lot of people, when they see somebody who does books, they don’t often associate them with someone that would have a creative side also, as well. I think that’s something unique and fun to talk about.
John: Yeah. No, for sure, yeah, because normally, the creative side in accounting is going to get you in trouble, but if you look at it like a work of art, then that’s different. It’s cool to have them ask those questions about that because then you could tell that story. Do you feel like the relationships you have with the clients that ask about the art more are different than maybe clients that don’t ask about the art or don’t know, or before you started sharing that side?
Sara: No, not really. Especially since COVID right now, a lot of my visits with clients are virtual, so it’s really hard to decipher that. It’s a nice icebreaker if you’re meeting a client for the first time. They walk into your office, and they see my artwork. Sometimes they comment on it . Or they see a piece that me and my daughter have done together, a piece of art hanging, and that opens the conversation. That also gives them a little piece of my life, say, hey, I’m not just a bookkeeper. I actually have a life after. I have a daughter. I have hobbies. I’m not a round-the-clock bookkeeper.
John: Which is good for two things, mostly, I’m not going to answer the phone at 10 pm just for no reason, type of thing.
Sara: I may be at my computer working. I’m not going to answer it.
John: At 2 pm, I’m not going to answer, my bad. No, but that’s just so cool, though, that you’re willing to share that side of you. Because a lot of us, for whatever reason, just a thought crosses our mind of, we shouldn’t share that, or they’re not going to care. Did that ever cross your mind at all? Or was it like, take it or leave it?
Sara: No, it never crossed my mind. I think when you share things like that with your clients, you’re opening yourself up to them to let them know that there’s more to me than just a bookkeeper. I’m a mother, and I’m a wife. I’m an artist. I do all these other things. I don’t think there’s no harm in our clients knowing you have this side of your life, outside of bookkeeping.
John: For sure. I agree totally. It’s just a lot of people that I talk to and a lot of the research that I’ve done, there is a part of them that just, oh, I don’t know. No, it’s totally cool. It’s not illegal or super taboo or whatever, for society. No, I like to paint. What do you want from me? There you go. Don’t overthink it, everybody, that’s for sure. Do you have any words of encouragement to people that are listening that might be like, I don’t think anybody cares, or it has nothing to do with what my job is?
Sara: I think it has a lot to do with your personality and your comfort level. The more comfortable you are with your client, the more open you’re going to be. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing your clients that you’re human. You’re not just this machine, robot doing books and answering questions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your clients knowing at the end of the day that you are human, and you have this life outside of — because maybe they have a hobby and passion that they will want to share with you. Oh, you like painting. I love painting too. Here’s a great art show to go to, that kind of thing. There’s nothing wrong with having those conversations.
John: Especially in the bookkeeping space, in accounting, a lot of professional services even, it’s a bit of a commodity. What makes you sticky to those clients is not necessarily, hey, I’m really good at bookkeeping, because so is a lot of people are really good at bookkeeping; but I’m really good at bookkeeping, and I love painting. They get to see that human side, and I’m a mom, and I’m a wife, and these other dimensions to who you are. That’s where those connections are made, above and beyond just the work. Because I’m assuming that you’re good at bookkeeping. I didn’t need to ask. It’s your job. It’s okay. I think that’s so cool that it’s really something that everyone could start tomorrow. Well, I guess it is New Year’s Eve, so maybe not tomorrow, but next week, after you recover from New Year’s Eve.
Sara: A good New Year’s resolution.
John: Oh, there you go.
Sara: If you believe in those. Some people don’t.
John: Well, start believing now and just do it. Come on, everybody, just do it. That’s awesome. Well, Sara, this has been so great and so many great ideas and takeaways for people to just look at things differently.
I feel it’s only fair, since I rudely questioned you right out of the beginning with my rapid-fire questions, I’m going to turn the tables and welcome everyone to the first episode of The Sara Gibb Podcast, Flow Works Bookkeeping and Consulting podcast. I don’t know what we’re going to call it, but I’m the first guest. Thanks for having me on. Whatever questions you have, fire away.
Sara: Dog or cat.
John: Dog, hands down.
Sara: Yeah, me too. Favorite color.
John: Blue. Yeah, I’ve always, always liked blue and really all shades of blue. It’s not even a specific — because I love a dark navy. I love royal. I love a teal even, just all the blues.
Sara: Favorite binge show on Netflix.
John: Oh, wow. Okay.
Sara: We all have one. Mine’s Friends.
John: Oh, Friends. Yeah, well, there’s a lot of those, that’s for sure. Shows that I’ve binged in the past, Breaking Bad, Homeland and, well, there’s one. It’s called Yellowstone. It’s got Kevin Costner in it. That’s a pretty good one, too. Most recently though is Queen’s Gambit.
John: That one was really good. I also enjoy playing chess, so I get that, but even my wife doesn’t play chess, and she still — it’s a cool, interesting story of, actually, it’s a woman who broke a lot of barriers in gender for chess, but also as an American beating Russians and stuff. Yeah, it’s cool. It takes place in the mid to late ’60s, so it’s kind of a cool time anyway, with the fashion and all that stuff too. Yeah, Queen’s Gambit, it was pretty good. You’ve got one more, or is that it?
Sara: Favorite season.
John: Favorite season is fall. It’s perfect temperature. There’s colors. College football is happening, all the good things. Thanksgiving is in Fall. You can just eat and eat and eat and eat and not have to worry about the pressure of presents. The Fall is, by far, the best for me, yeah, hands down.
That’s cool. Well, thank you so much, Sara, for taking time to be on What’s Your “And”? This was super, super fun.
Sara: Yeah, this is great. I enjoyed chatting with you.
John: Awesome, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Sara’s work or outside-of-work pictures or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book.
It’s Christmas Day! We’ve finally made it to the end of 2020 so I wanted to take a moment to recap what a year it’s been on the show. We’ve had so many great guests sharing their “And”–from rollerblading to NASCAR to ju-jitsu and even two volunteer firefighters!
Thank you for subscribing to this podcast to hear about the “And” of other professionals and how that applies to their work. If you or someone you know has an “And”–that hobby or passion or interest outside of work–please reach out because I’d love to share this with everyone listening.
There will be a slight change in format going forward with a little more of me sharing what I’ve learned from the research sprinkled with some more follow-ups about how the book has impacted workplace cultures.
Speaking of the book, What’s Your “And”?, the audio version will be coming in the first half of 2021! The exact date is pending–just like everything else in the world. If you prefer the paperback or e-reader version, the links are at WhatsYourAnd.com. And if you have the book, please take a minute to leave a few sentences as an Amazon review.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
• Happy Holidays message from John
• John shares some exciting updates about the book and podcast
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
What’s Your “And”? Links
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Welcome to Episode 344 of What’s Your “And”? Normally, the follow-up Friday edition. This is John Garrett and I wanted to just take a week off to say Happy Holidays! We made it. Hanukkah has happened. Christmas is today. New Year’s is next week. Thank goodness we made it. What a fun year on the show. We had such great guests this past year with “ands” like rollerblading, NASCAR, playing indoor soccer, jujitsu, volunteering, even two volunteer firefighters like, what?
So if you’re listening and you would like to share your “and” with everyone, don’t hesitate to reach out to me yet, whatsyourand.com. I’d love to have you on as a guest and share your story. Maybe it’s someone you know like an attorney, an engineer, an accountant, a banker or any other white collar nerd like me. The more we share these “ands”, the more normal it becomes and then we can shatter that stereotype of what it takes to be a successful professional because these dimensions to our lives that are outside of work, these “ands”, these hobbies, passions, interests and then other things like family, friends, faith, these dimensions are so crucial for our lives. I think that we’ve all realized that in the past nine to ten months of COVID. Before, it was important, but we didn’t always see it. But wow, did it come out and our “ands” are needed now more than ever.
I remember seeing when the pandemic started, someone had a meme on social media that said, “Apparently, my hobby is going to restaurants and bars” because they were all closed and now, they had nothing to do. Having those “ands” is really, really important so you don’t get sucked into all work and then burn out. Especially when you’re working from home, it’s hard to leave the work behind. It’s always there depending on how your house is set up or your apartment is set up. That computer is always there looking at you and you’re going to burn out. So you really, really need those “ands” not only to create those connections with coworkers and clients, but also just for yourself, just for that mental wellness piece of it.
Also, too, we found that if you build your culture from the outside in, in other words, that culture core that I talk about in the book, “What’s Your And?” that culture core is so important that the core of your organization’s culture is your people’s “ands”, those outside of work hobbies, passions, and interests. So shining a light on those and celebrating those and getting to know what those are is so, so important especially because we’ve been in each other’s homes now. On these video calls, you’ve had coworkers in your house and see you at 8:00 a.m. where you maybe haven’t showered and you’re wearing a sweatshirt, your kids are into homeschooling, and the dog is barking because you have a delivery being dropped off on your porch. It’s just chaos and you can’t put on this facade anymore of, “Look, I’ve got everything together. I’m an uber professional person and super slick and everything’s together.” It’s not. We’re all human. We’ve seen each other be human. So now that that’s out, please don’t let that go. Don’t let that leave. When you see somebody next time, “Hey, how’s your dog that we saw on the chat?” or your cat or whatever pet. What about the art hanging on their walls or the pictures? Things that you saw in their home just creates those genuine connections between each other that are so, so important.
For the podcast, some exciting news. The format is going to change just a little bit going forward. We’ll always be doing the Wednesday interviews in sharing people’s “ands”, but people seem to want a little more of me, I guess. So what I’ve learned from my research as well as some of the follow-ups that we’ve been doing, just to hear how the book has impacted workplace cultures because it’s really making a difference out there and it’s cool to see and hear about, and I’m the one hearing about it, so it’s only right that I share it with you guys as well.
If you don’t have the book yet, it’s available on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. Just in case you’re interested in buying 25 or more maybe for your clients or your team, there’s a form at whatsyourand.com so you can get discounted pricing from my publisher. It’s the least I can do to hook you up with that. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. They’re so, so important just to keep it fresh in everyone’s minds and Amazon to keep liking it. Thank you so much for those.
Many of you have asked about the audio book version especially since you’re used to hearing me talk on here, so your wish has been granted. The audio book will be coming in the first half of 2021. I wish I had an exact date to share with you right now. It’s pending just like everything else is in the world, right?
The only thing not pending though is the end of 2020. Wow, what a hard year for everyone, each of us in a different way. We’re not all in this together necessarily. I don’t like that phrase, but we’re all in it because some of us had to work more than ever before. On the other hand, some of us were furloughed or laid off. Some of us had businesses just completely decimated. I’ll tell you what. Being a keynote speaker, I was on the front end of that. Maybe it’s your clients. Maybe it’s your friends. Maybe it’s your neighbors. It’s just really, really a hard year for all of us in a different way. I just hope that we could all agree that we don’t have to hear the word “pivot” ever again. Let’s just hope that that was the last time you hear it especially for the next year. Please, can we all just agree on that one thing, just pretty please, maybe just for me?
But Happy New Year! It’s just a week away and I just look forward to 2021, continuing to share this message, hearing how the book and the message is impacting you and making a difference where you work, and then sharing people’s stories. Again, if it’s you or someone you know that has a hobby or a passion, and it can be anything, let’s talk about it and share it and just shatter that stereotype. So if you haven’t already, please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing those interesting stories each and every week. Now, a little more of my thoughts will be added and how this message applies to you and your workplaces.
Thanks again for sharing this podcast with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Terrell is an Consultant & Content Creator
Terrell Turner talks about how his desire for making meetings a more fun experience led him to his passion for creating content to creatively relay important information, tell stories and encourage people to open up and connect with each other!
• Getting into content creation
• Starting The Business Talk Library podcast
• The impact of his content
• How his content creation translates to his work as an accountant
• Getting noticed by executives for his content creation
• The responsibilities of the organization and the individual in creating an open workplace culture
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
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Welcome to Episode 343 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is out and it makes a perfect holiday gift. Christmas is two days away, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. All the links are on that page. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s getting the book and leaving such nice reviews on Amazon, and for sharing how their cultures have changed because of it. It’s really cool to see. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.
This week is no different with my guest, Terrell Turner. He’s the co-founder of TL Turner Group and the host of the Business Talk Library Podcast. Now, he’s with me here today. Terrell, thanks so much for taking the time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Terrell: Absolutely. My pleasure.
John: Now, this is going to be awesome, super fun. I have my 17 rapid fire questions to get to know Terrell on a new level here.
Terrell: Let’s go for it.
John: All right. Here we go. I’ll start you out easy. Favorite color?
John: Nice. Mine, too. All right. We’re one for one. No, I’m teasing. There’s actually no right answers. How about a least favorite color?
Terrell: I would say pink.
John: Pink. Okay, fair enough. Fair enough. How about do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Cold. Okay. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Terrell: Favorite actor, I would have to say Will Smith.
John: Will Smith. Solid answer. There you go. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl? Early. Okay. How about chocolate or vanilla?
Terrell: I’ll go with vanilla.
John: Okay. Yeah. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Terrell: Crossword. Sudoku is just too complicated for me.
John: Okay. It’s how I look at tax returns. I’m like, “What? This is crazy.” There we go. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Terrell: Star Trek.
John: Star Trek. Okay. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
John: PC. Yeah, me too. Me, too. Your mouse then, right click or left click?
Terrell: Right click.
John: Right click. That’s where all the options are. There you go. Getting crazy. Oh, this is a fun one. Socks or shoes?
John: Socks. Okay. There you go. How about balance sheet or income statement?
Terrell: Income statement.
John: Income statement. That was just stupid. All right. We have five more. Oceans or mountains?
Terrell: Oceans. There’s something about the water.
John: Yeah. You’re an East Coast guy for sure. What do you eat for breakfast?
Terrell: Typical breakfast would be — it’d be a breakfast burrito either with eggs or bacon or some type of meat and eggs in it.
John: Yeah, there you go. That’s fantastic right there. How about a favorite number? I have to ask with the Finance Accounting background.
Terrell: I’ll just say seven. That’s the one that comes to mind.
John: That’s mine, too, man. It’s like sports-related, kind of, but who knows? It’s just a good number. I agree. How about my book being out, Kindle or real books? Real books. There you go. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Terrell: The favorite thing that I have, I would have to say — man, that’s a good one. Favorite thing I have, a physical thing? I would say right now, it’s my cellphone because there are so many different things that I can do with it. That’s probably the thing I use the most.
John: Okay. Fair enough. When you lose it, it’s like, “Ah! I can’t open my garage. I can’t do anything. I don’t even know how to call someone. I don’t know their number.” Totally, man. It’s insane how reliant we are on this thing. Also, how right at two years, it starts to go wonky and you need to get a new one. What do you know?
Terrell: I’m about at that point now.
John: Yeah, it’s insane. What a racket. Let’s talk content creation. I’m sure the cellphone probably comes in handy for some of that sometimes even, but how did you get started doing that?
Terrell: For me, it was probably in college where I played around with it because even going through some of the accounting in the business classes, whenever we’d have to do presentations, I was always bored with just getting up there, people pointing to their PowerPoint. Some of my professors said, “Okay, you guys can use a little bit of creativity” and I was like, great! In one presentation, what I did is I set the classroom up like it was a talk show.
John: Nice! There you go.
Terrell: I got some of my classmates to participate or whatever, and I did my presentation in the form of a talk show. I think there was another one I did where I had to do an analysis on Nike or whatever. I just came up with this analogy of, well, what if I change up the classroom and make my speech like I’m doing a safety briefing on an airline? Everybody’s strapped in. People get seatbelts. I put on a captain’s hat.
It’s just bringing that creativity in to where when I started working — I started off in public accounting and getting back into, okay, I was doing things very structural, but there’s that creative side of me that wants to do something a little different. So creating content whether it be for social media or just for different friends that have questions about different stuff, content creation became my way of expressing that creativity.
John: That’s awesome because yeah, the content still gets delivered. You’re still doing the presentation. It’s just in a different way. That pattern interrupt, I believe, makes people actually listen for once instead of just zoning out. You’re up there with a talk show. You’re a little bit of creativity. How about a lot? I’ve got a talk show and we’re going to do it Maury style. “Are you pregnant or not? Who’s the daddy?” No, no, I’m kidding.
But that’s such a great idea because who cares? Who cares? The whole goal is present information so people listen and absorb it. It doesn’t matter how you present it. The way that they absorb it the most is the most effective way. I have to believe you nailed it, so that’s super cool, man. Have you always been creative, outside the box kind of person? I mean it within reason because you’re still in accounting. It’s like a red dye instead of a —
Terrell: I will say it was something for me that kind of developed a little bit more over time because for me, over time, I got frustrated with I guess just being bored trying to learn different stuff whether it was accounting or whether it was English, Math or whatever it was. I got bored very easily. I’m like, there has to be a way to bring a little bit more entertainment into this. So for me, it developed more and more over time by me just getting frustrated with being bored.
John: Yeah. I can relate 100% because it’s like, there’s got to be a better way. That’s pretty cool, man. Then it went from college into the real world then. Now, it’s mostly the podcast or are you doing other things as well? Did it go straight from — is that the first thing you went into or were there other steps along the way?
Terrell: I went quiet on it for a little while because at one point, I felt like okay, all right, this doesn’t really fit the world that I’m in. There’s an expectation, but I just got to a point where I’m just like, you know what, there’s a bunch of people around me that aren’t getting what we’re trying to learn. Let me just bring it back. I started doing videos, just like I said, recording videos of just talking about different business topics. Then I started to branch it off with a podcast of just interviewing other people.
Now, I guess since so many people have seen the content, now people reach out to me about different subject matters. They’re like, “Hey, this is my audience. I need some ideas about how to do this.” I’ve worked with some people that are writing children’s books like, “Hey, how do I get my message across?” because that’s what they realized. They were like, “Regardless of what you talk about, I can’t even stand accounting, but I actually enjoy your videos.”
John: Right. That’s awesome. That’s a huge compliment. That’s the people that email me about the book. They’re like, “I’m not a reader, but I just accidentally read it cover to cover.”
John: Mission accomplished. Done. The AICPA should hire you to recruit people. Then all of a sudden, they get in there and they’re like, “Wait. This isn’t what Terrell said. This is not at all what the brochure says.” That’s super cool to hear, man. Yeah, it’s just bringing your personality to it. Do you prefer the video to the audio?
Terrell: To me, it’s gotten to the point where both are kind of the same. I have no preference over one or the other. Now, I will say doing the video takes a bit more work and editing. So I will say time-wise, the audio is much easier to do.
John: Yeah, definitely. I just have a face for podcasts. That’s why I’m nailing it. Especially when you’re doing interviews, you have to have guests that show up that also look good as well as sound good. I mean good video quality I guess is the way I meant to say that before we get all Twitter happy in the world.
That’s super cool and cool to hear. That’s got to be really rewarding when people not only watch it, but then say that it made a difference in what they’re thinking or they actually absorbed the information.
Terrell: Yup, I agree. It is very rewarding just to hear people that don’t have a similar background say, “Man, I’ve learned so much from you” because even on LinkedIn, I’ve had executives that aren’t in the finance and accounting field reach out to me to say, “Hey, I love what you’re doing. This really helped me out a lot.” I think there was one where there’s a guy who was in finance. He said, “Seeing you do your video…” He got laid off from his job. He’s back in the job market for the first time in 15 years. He was like, “Seeing you get out there and really just be yourself,” it gave him the confidence he needed to go back into the job market. I’m like, I did not expect that to be the outcome.
John: That’s awesome, man. You never know who’s listening or who’s watching or how you’re able to make an impact. That’s fantastic, really fantastic. Do you feel like this at all translates — of course, you’re talking about finance topics, but the skill and the ability to create this content, do you feel like that translates to work at all?
Terrell: I think it definitely does. When I’m working with a client and I’m trying to pretty much just tell them, “Hey, here’s the story that your financial statements are saying,” I think about it like when — I like watching comedians and really understanding how they take you from just a common phrase to a killer punch line. If you watch it, it’s like they’re taking you on a journey and you end up where you’re just laughing hysterically. I think about the same way even in business when I’m talking to a client or whether I’m talking to the Board of Directors. My goal is to take you on a journey through the information so that at the end of it, you get my punch line and you walk away with some value.
John: Exactly. We can all laugh at your negative accounts receivable or whatever. “You’re bankrupt.” I’m kidding, man, but a punch line in a sense that it’s not a joke punch line. This is where we’re trying to get to and where I need you to get to. As a comedian, you see a picture and you need to paint that picture for the person that’s listening, the audience whether it’s one or it’s a hundred or a thousand. You have to paint that picture for them and get them to where you already are. That’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s cool, man. That’s exactly it. That’s skill you’re exercising outside of work so then when it’s go time, it’s like, “I do this regularly. We could do this.” That’s really cool.
When you were doing some of this, before you created TL Turner group, was it something that you shared at work some or did you just keep it on the down low?
Terrell: Well, I kept it strictly on LinkedIn because I just kept doing the videos there on LinkedIn. As I started to connect with more people from work on LinkedIn, what ended up happening was actually, the CEO came to me because he saw it. The CEO and I guess the Chief Sales Officer, they were the founders of the company. They saw it and he was like, “Hey, I saw your video.” In my head, I’m thinking like, “What does that mean? That was all?”
John: “You’ve got to say more.” There’s another line there whether it’s good or bad.
Terrell: So the Chief Sales Officer, he saw it. Him and I were talking and he was like, “Hey, what’s the deal with the videos?” I was like, “It’s something I started doing.” He was like, “I really like it. It’s really good stuff. Me and the CEO are talking about it and it’s really good. You’ve got to do some of that stuff here.” I was like, “Oh!” That’s the rest of the story.
John: There we go. Okay. Thank goodness. That’s really cool because what are the odds that the CEO talks to you about something anyway? Typically, we have this mentality of if someone high up comes to talk to us, we’re in trouble. It’s like the principal in high school. The principal never talks to you if you did something well. That’s neat because then it breaks down that hierarchy to where you’re not just a number or an analyst or whatever. It’s Terrell. “Go talk to Terrell” and vice versa. That CEO and sales executive are just regular people, too. That’s neat. Did you end up doing something for the company?
Terrell: I didn’t do anything specifically for the company, but I took some of the topics that — let’s say for the sales team, we were trying to navigate some changes in accounting standards or whatever. What I like to do is just take something that’s completely unrelated but people understand whether it’s playing football or whatever, just explain the analogy and then connect the dots. People are like, “Oh, I get it now. It makes sense.” So I started doing some videos on the type of topics like some of the metrics that we were watching like why would it be important. I started doing videos on that.
What I noticed is more and more of the employees of the company started watching, responding, and then it started just expanding that way, so more and more people started really engaging with the content.
John: That is incredible, man. So then people that are in other departments that had no idea who you were before now know your name.
John: That’s pretty neat. I had a similar thing except for it was an Onion kind of newsletter that I did every month that made fun of everything. Yours was way more productive, but either way, you have people that remember you and know you now. There are even people that worked with you that were like, “I had no idea that you had this skill or this talent” type of thing. Do you feel like places where you worked where people didn’t know, was that better or worse? In what way was it different to the people that did know and were able to talk to you about those outside-of-work interests?
Terrell: I think for the people that did know, it made it a lot easier to develop relationships with people because I think no matter what capacity whether you’re running your own business or whether you’re working for another company, relationships are going to be a very big part of how you progress in that. Like I said, if you need to execute on a decision, you’re probably going to need the cooperation of other people. If they like you then hey, things will go well. If they don’t like you —
John: There’s going to be work.
Terrell: As more people started seeing it, I think, and more people started finding out about it, I noticed it was so much easier to just have a casual conversation with people. If I use an analogy of let’s say about Star Trek or whatever, someone who I didn’t know like Star Trek, we were able to have a conversation about it because they’re like, “Hey, he likes Star Trek, too. We could talk about it” or something like that.
John: Yeah, it’s such an icebreaker there. It’s so weird how just having a conversation about something outside of work is just supernatural. As soon as you start talking work stuff, it gets weird in a hurry and I don’t know why, but it does. So starting with that outside-of-work interest whether you like Star Trek or not, it’s still — I know Terrell likes Star Trek. “Hey, I saw this thing about Star Trek” and then it’s probably Star Wars and you’re like, “Oh, now I’ve got to explain it again.” That’s neat to hear, just those relationships. Yeah, work is easier when you actually get to know each other, which unfortunately, no one ever really tells us anywhere, but yeah, it’s so true. It’s so true.
How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that environment? It sounds like where you were, you share these passions, and as a matter of fact, don’t just talk about them. Go use them to do something for the company versus how much is it on the individual to maybe just create that little circle amongst themselves if the culture doesn’t give you permission, if you will.
Terrell: In the environment we live in, because for some strange reason, it almost seems uncomfortable or people aren’t sure that they can really be themselves or talk about something other than work. I think companies, they do have a responsibility, I guess, to at least start the ball rolling in that direction. One of the companies I was at, what they started doing is the HR department encouraged people to — I guess they had this little randomized system where it put people who want to participate, put their names in and it will pair you with someone, and you just go get coffee with them for like 15 minutes.
John: That’s awesome.
Terrell: It just paired you with some random person. So you go get coffee and you realize, “Wow, we have a lot in common. I would have never talked to this person before,” but I think just having some tool like that to just start the ball rolling. But then I think it really plays big for the actual individual to have, I think, more responsibility to actually just have the conversation. Just start initiating that and move out of what we think is the acceptable norm and just really start to get to know people for who they are.
John: Now, that’s such a great example. I love that so much because it not only encourages it to happen, but it’s giving you permission. It’s like, “Look. HR says we have to get coffee.” That’s 15 minutes we’re not working. So at least at that, it’s a win. You’re going into it winning, but then you get to meet someone and know someone and they’re in a different department and a different building and a different whatever. It’s like, wow, this is cool. Who knows when you have to interact with that department again? “Now, we’re friends. I’ll just go ask my new friend” type of thing. That’s such a great example that everyone can do tomorrow. Well, it’s Christmas Eve, but still, tomorrow.
That’s a great example and really cool, but I agree with you. It’s on the individual because so many people sit around waiting for permission. It’s like, well, you’ve got to jump in too and pull your side of it. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that’s like, “Hey, I’ve got a hobby, but no one cares” or “It has nothing to do with my job?”
Terrell: I would definitely say from my hobby of creating content, when you start putting yourself out there, a lot of people have fear about, “If I put myself out there, people are going to find out about it. They’re going to look at me and say I’m not working as hard because I’m doing my hobby.” That was one of the things that even some people told me when I first started creating video. They’re like, “Well, you want to be careful how much you share that because then people may question your ability at work.” I was like, “You know what? Forget that. I’m just going to do it.”
John: Good for you, man. Good for you.
Terrell: I think that when you really start to put serious energy into the hobbies or things you like whether it’s talking about sports or whether it’s skateboarding or whether it’s cooking, whatever it may be is when you really start to find something you enjoy doing. I think there are so many transferable skills that will be taken back to what you do to where I believe you will become better at your day job when you really start to take your hobbies and appreciate them and enjoy the journey because you’re going to learn so much about yourself. You’re going to learn so much about your craft and learn so much about the skills that you have that you weren’t able to use any other way.
John: Yeah. Wow. That was it. The podcast is over. No more episodes. That’s as good as it gets, man. No, you nailed it. Exactly. Because at the very least, it humanizes you, but you know it the best. It’s a skill that then you’re able to use at work to make you better at your job. So either way, you’re being better at your job. That’s awesome to hear that that’s been your experience as well. That’s super cool.
I don’t know why it is either. Just in our heads, you were just like me where it’s like, “Well, forget that. This is what I do.” It’s not like it’s illegal or a detriment to the company or whatever. It’s what I love to do. Kudos to you for pushing the naysayers aside. Who cares? Good things happen. Meanwhile, those naysayers might be completely forgettable. The CEO remembers who you are. I guarantee it. There are a lot of people that he or she doesn’t remember unfortunately, and that’s just the way it works. Good for you, man. This has been awesome. So much fun.
Before I wrap this up, it’s only fair, I feel, that I allow you to question me since I so rudely peppered you with questions in the beginning. It’s another episode of The Terrell Turner Podcast. It’s has nothing to do with his Business Talk Library because this is much less professional, but here we go, Terrell. Fire away.
Terrell: All right. I want to ask you, who’s your favorite college football team?
John: Oh, Notre Dame. I don’t have to think about it. Hands down.
Terrell: Awesome. I want to hear about that. I saw a post that you recently did where you had a bear costume on. You’ve got to give us the backstory.
John: Okay. Yeah. I was hosting a virtual CEO forum. It was 800 CEOs and 14 states and five countries, I’m pretty sure. They had the CEO of Insperity, a huge, giant company. He actually created it. Now, it’s billions of dollars big.
John: With a B. He did a keynote piece and then there was some workshop stuff, but they had a break. Coming out of the break, they wanted me to also do something funny. When you have CEOs, it’s kind of like — so I interviewed 20 or so CEOs and just asked them a series of questions. Only really two of them I was interested in. The other ones were just to soften them up. Then it was kind of like, “If there was a product that made being a CEO better, what would it do?” All the answers I got were hilarious. “I wish that I could have just a bunch of hats because I’m always having to wear a different hat. So then everyone will know which hat I’m wearing. Then they can not talk to me because I’m wearing that hat” or “A headband so I could read people’s minds.”
Of course, the next guy is like, “Whatever that’s not a mind reading thing because I don’t want to know what my people are thinking unless I can read my dog’s mind” or a magic wand. Somebody was like, “I wish I could just shut up so I could not interrupt my people when they’re asking me questions because I already know what the answer is.” The last one was feelings because somebody was like, “I don’t feel the feelings, so I need someone to tell me what feelings are.” Well, that sounds terrible.
It was kind of a Saturday Night Live version where I played some of the video pieces, and then it came back to me with CEO buddy. So I was CEO buddy and I had a onesie bear costume. I was wearing eight hats with a headband and a magic wand then I had duct tape so you could shut up while your people are talking, and then the bear because I feel all the feelings. It was completely ridiculous. It was silly and funny, but it was about the CEOs. So in the chat, people were like, “Oh my God, this is hilarious.” It’s exactly what we talked about earlier with you. I could have stood there and just told them about depressed stuff, but do it in a creative way. That’s definitely one of the two things that they’re going to remember from the CEO forum, was the freaking weirdo with the bear costume. Mission accomplished.
Terrell: Now, I would say the last question is when you think about all of the presentations you’ve done, what’s been one of the wildest, creative approaches you’ve taken?
John: Oh, that would be pretty high on the list. I think almost all of them, I come at them in a different way, which makes the audience engaged. Typically, I show one of my music video parodies up front to be like, “Here’s the preview.” “Oh, this is different. I should watch.” Then I come out up top with some comedy and then some stuff about the group, about the people there. So then it’s, “Oh, this isn’t just a cookie cutter presentation. This is for us.” So then they know like, “Oh, wow, he did his homework. We should probably pay attention. This is different. Plus, maybe he’s going to say my name. I better listen to what he says about me,” that type of thing.
Comedy-wise, probably my favorite one, it was a finance group in Bermuda. I’m sure they did everything shady, but they were so cool. It was such a great audience because it was people from the UK, people from South Africa, people from the islands plus Canada. It was international-type people. People from — well, I didn’t know this, but there were people from — they were from Ethiopia. I did a joke about I just ran a marathon, half marathon, and I found out I’m not the very fast runner because the winner was already back in Kenya, and they jumped up. I thought they were going to fight me. It was like five dudes. They were just excited that anyone said any country near them and it was hilarious. Oh my God, it’s so funny. In America, someone’s going to be offended at that joke. They were like, “Yes! Oh my gosh! This is amazing” because it’s not offensive at all. It was true. I’m really slow and the winner was from Kenya. These are facts, people.
Terrell: I think that is hilarious. My wife was born in Kenya, so she’s half Kenyan, half Nigerian. We joke about that all the time. Whenever there’s a marathon, I always tell her, “There’s no point in watching. We know who’s going to win.”
John: Exactly. Your cousin’s going to win. Everybody knows. What’s even hilarious is I went to Kenya. The Ugali, I think it’s called, it’s like cornmeal kind of mashed potatoes, cornmeal type of thing, it’s funny because it’s only really in the Maasai Mara — those are the runners. They’re all tall and lean and whatever, but most of the Kenyans I saw, they’re not running anywhere. It’s because they eat that. And because I ate it, I was like, oh, man, I don’t want to run at all. I thought this was going to give me super energy and I was like, oh my gosh. It’s super funny. But it is cool to just interact with different cultures and also see how they perceive jokes are just jokes. There’s no agenda behind it. It’s just funny, and then next joke, here we go type of thing, which is cool. That was really refreshing. Yeah, it’s super fun.
This has been great, Terrell. I really appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks so much, man.
Terrell: Hey, no problem.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Terrell in action or get links to his content or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button to the anonymous research survey about corporate culture and buy the book. I’m telling you, it’s good.